Why defibrillators are essential on every construction site


While safety on construction sites is paramount, the inherent risks associated with working at heights, with heavy machinery and exposed electrical wires can lead to other types of unforeseen emergencies. Among these is sudden, cardiac arrest, a silent threat that can strike swiftly and have devastating consequences, writes John Ridgeway.

While there is a lack of specific data on construction site cardiac arrests, research points towards construction workers being at a higher risk of experiencing this sudden medical emergency, compared to the general population. Construction work is physically demanding, often involving lifting heavy objects, climbing and constant movement. This exertion can put significant strain on the heart.

A recent study published in the American Heart Association Journal found that strenuous physical activity can increase the risk of cardiac events, particularly for individuals with pre-existing coronary artery disease. An earlier 2020 study in the Journal of Construction Engineering and Management investigated the association between chronic stress and cardiovascular health issues among construction workers. The study found a significant correlation between stress levels and increased blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart disease and cardiac arrest.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics in America reports that construction workers are more likely than other professions to be exposed to extreme hot or cold temperatures. Working in very hot or cold environments can put additional stress on the heart, increasing the risk of cardiac events.

The crucial role of defibrillators

In the event of a cardiac arrest, immediate action is critical. Every minute without effective intervention significantly reduces the chances of survival. This is where defibrillators come into play and more and more construction professionals believe they should be installed as part of standard health and safety practice on every construction site – but what are they exactly?

An Automated External Defibrillator (AED) is a portable electronic device that analyses the heart rhythm and can deliver an electric shock to restore a normal heart rhythm during a cardiac arrest. They are designed for ease of use, even by individuals with no prior medical training. Clear voice prompts guide the user through the steps of using the device.

Early defibrillation is crucial in improving the chances of survival and AEDs can be deployed quickly on construction sites, providing immediate intervention. Studies have, in fact, shown that using an AED within the first few minutes of a cardiac arrest can significantly increase survival rates by up to 70%.

The other advantages of having readily available AEDs on construction sites are undeniable. While every second counts during a cardiac arrest and AEDs can make the difference between life and death, there are also many other benefits.

Cardiac arrest events can lead to significant project delays due to worker injuries and potential fatalities. Having AEDs on-site can minimise downtime associated with medical emergencies. The presence of AEDs provides peace of mind to both workers and employers, knowing that they are equipped to handle a cardiac arrest emergency. Having AEDs further demonstrates a commitment to worker safety and well-being, fostering a more positive work environment.

Equipping construction sites with AEDs is a crucial step towards ensuring worker safety and should be strategically placed throughout the construction site, ensuring they are easily accessible within a short distance of any potential emergency.

Clear and visible signage should also indicate the location of AEDs, making them easy to find during an emergency and they should be regularly inspected and maintained to ensure they are in proper working order and ready for use.

A multi-pronged approach to cardiac arrest prevention

While AEDs are a vital tool for responding to cardiac arrest emergencies, a comprehensive approach is ideal for preventing them from occurring in the first place. Encouraging healthy habits through on-site wellness programmes can help workers manage stress, maintain a healthy weight and improve overall cardiovascular health.

Information about heart health and recognising warning signs of cardiac arrest into regular safety briefings, would help together with programmes to incorporate basic health screenings during the pre-employment process to identify potential risk factors for heart problems, particularly for older workers.

The cost of an AED is a small price to pay for the potential to save a life. AEDs can range in price from $1,000 to $3,000, depending on the model and features. However, this should be considered as an investment in worker safety and well-being.

Equipping construction sites with AEDs is a powerful statement about a company's commitment to its workforce. By prioritising worker safety and well-being, construction companies can foster a positive work environment where employees feel valued and protected.

Cardiac arrest can strike anyone, anytime and construction sites are not immune to this silent threat. By equipping sites with AEDs, providing proper training and implementing preventative measures, construction companies can significantly improve the chances of survival for workers experiencing a cardiac arrest.

Even better - by working together, construction companies, workers and safety organisations can create a safer work environment where cardiac arrest emergencies are met with swift intervention and a higher chance of survival. So, let's ensure that every construction site is equipped to handle the unexpected and prioritise the well-being of the workforce that builds the world around us.

Please Note: The images to accompany this blog have been generated by Ai and are not actual defibrillators, but have been used for illustration purposes only

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