Automated External Defibrillator (AED) Facts

Some questions and answers about AED units

At Safety First Aid Training, we are strong advocates of defibrillators (AED’s) in the workplace. The price to pay for ensuring there is an AED unit in your workplace is minimal compared to the statistics that prove the effectiveness of these devices. For every minute that passes without defibrillation, the chance of survival reduces by 14% (British Heart Foundation).

Here are some useful questions and answers about defibrillators.

What does AED stand for?

AED stands for Automated External Defibrillator. The terms defibrillator/defib are also commonly used.

Do I have to be trained in order to use an AED?

AED’s are designed to be used by everyone even if you have not received Defibrillator Training. The technology now built into AED units means that voice-commands guide the user through the required actions. However, Safety First Aid Training and the Resuscitation Council recommend that users have had training to improve their competency. Remember that any delay in administering the AED will lower the patient’s chance of survival. Defibrillator Training allows learners to become familiar with AED use and removes the chances of any delays when an emergency situation occurs.

Is there a legal obligation that requires me to have an AED in my workplace?

There is currently no legal obligation to ensure an AED is available in the workplace. Your first aid needs assessment, which forms part of your risk assessment, should establish if an AED unit would mitigate risk. A couple of points to consider would be the location from your workplace relative to the nearest ambulance service, the average age of your workforce (due to statistically higher rates of cardiac arrest in older age brackets), the number and average age of members of the public that access your workplace and the levels of physical activity of both your employees and any visitors.

I have just noticed that the contact pads are out of date. Can I still use the AED until I get replacements?

After the expiry date AED pads may use lose their moisture content and the adhesive compound may break down, affecting the efficiency of the unit. This is required to ensure the pads stay in contact with the casualty’s body when in use. If your pads are out of date they should be replaced immediately. Replacement pads should be obtained before the originals expire according to the expiry date printed on the outside of the pad package. It is best to always ensure you have 2 sets of pads. That way if you use your unit, you would always have a spare set to ensure your unit can stay in service at all times. New pads usually come with a 2 year life but you should check and record their expiry date.

Can an AED unit be used on a child?

Yes, as long as the child is over 1 year of age. Child contact pads (also known as electrodes) should be used instead of adult contact pads up to the age of 8 years. For casualties 9 years and over, adult contact pads should be used. If there is a chance the defibrillator unit will be used on a child aged 1-8 years, you should ensure you have paediatric pads. Some defibrillators now come with a switch that can adjust the settings to deliver the appropriate shock to either a child or an adult, meaning you do not require different pads. Please read the manufacturer’s instructions careful to establish the specification of your defibrillator unit.

What is the difference between adult and child contact pads?

Adult and child contact pads differ in size and specification. Child contact pads administer a reduced energy charge compared with adult contact pads. An AED unit that is used on children aged 1-8 years old (or a casualty under 25kg) should have child contact pads fitted. Check the specific AED manufacturer specification to establish if this is true for your unit. Official guidelines state that if no child contact pads are available, you should use adult contact pads.

Is there a chance the AED unit will administer a shock to a casualty that does not need it?

When the pads are placed onto the casualty the AED unit will analyse the heart rhythm. If the casualty requires a shock, the unit will automatically charge and a shock will be administered automatically (for fully automatic AED units) or will tell you to press a button to administer the shock (for semi-automatic AED units). A shock will not be administered by the AED unit if the casualty does not require it.

Can an AED unit still be used on a pregnant casualty?

There is no research to suggest that the use of an AED would be detrimental. It is worth remembering that there are 2 casualties and every effort should be attempted to preserve life. Official guidelines state that an AED unit can be used ensuring dignity is provided to the pregnant casualty.

Click here to read related article – AED & the Law

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