Does your workplace have access to regular CPR and first aid training? Does it have an automated external defibrillator (AED) in case of a cardiac emergency?

Two new surveys from the American Heart Association (AHA) show that most U.S. employees are not prepared or trained to handle the 10,000 cardiac emergencies that annually occur in the workplace.

“The data suggests these untrained employees may be relying on their untrained peers in the event of an emergency, leaving employees with a false sense of security that someone in the workplace will be qualified and able to respond, when that is clearly not the case,” said Dr. Michael Kurz, co-chair of the AHA’s Systems of Care Subcommittee and associate professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine in the Department of Emergency Medicine.

The association surveyed more than 3,000 workers with various job roles between February and April 2017. This included 2,000 workers in hospitality, education and industry/labor as well as more than 1,000 safety managers in industries regulated by OSHA.

The results revealed most workers do not have access to CPR and first aid training, and half of those surveyed could not locate an automated external defibrillator (AED) at work. Cardiac arrests occur when the heart suddenly stops beating, and survival chances outside the hospital can double or triple when CPR immediately is performed by a bystander, according to the AHA.

Some key findings from the employee study, commissioned by AHA and conducted by Edelman Intelligence include:

  • More than half, 55 percent, of workers cannot get first aid or CPR+AED training from their employer and even if employers do offer this training, it’s often either one or the other.
  • Half of all U.S. workers cannot locate the AED at work. In the hospitality industry, that number rises to two-thirds, or 66 percent.

According to the AHA, safety managers in OSHA-regulated industries see a need for more frequent training, although fully one-third said first aid, CPR and AED training only became important and offered after an incident demonstrated the need.

In addition, 33 percent of safety managers said lives have been saved at home and at the workplace as a result of first aid, CPR and AED training provided at work. Seventy-five percent also said injuries or medical conditions have been treated in the workplace with training.

“First aid, CPR and AED training need to become part of a larger culture of safety within workplaces,” said Kurz. “We are certainly seeing higher public interest in this training, and our campaign calls upon decision makers in workplaces and popular public spaces such as arenas, fitness centers, hotels and churches to place AEDs in the same locations as a fire extinguisher.”

Safety managers' responses echoed Kurz's call for additional training. More than one-third, or 36 percent, or those surveyed said they felt it would be "valuable" to offer CPR training more often than once every two years.

Lastly, more than 90 percent of employees would take first aid and CPR+AED training if employers offered it, and 70 percent believe training would make them feel better prepared for emergencies. 

“We are disheartened that lifesaving first aid and CPR+AED training is often only offered after a serious incident that demonstrated need,” said Peter Fromm, MPH, RN, co-chair of the AHA Emergency Cardiac Care Subcommittee on Systems of Care and administrator at the South Nassau Communities Hospital Center for Cardiovascular Health. “All businesses should be committed to proactively fostering a safe workplace environment, one that empowers people to take on a small social responsibility that can have a large community impact.”

To read more on AHA's Workplace Safety Training Initiative as well as the study findings, please visit the AHA’s workplace training site