In today’s economy, employers are doing all they can to reduce expenses. However, there are a variety of health and safety precautions that should not be changed in an effort to cut down the expenses. Health & wellness of employees should be of primary concern. Every organization should be equipped with life-saving devices such as an Automated External Defibrillator.
One workplace danger is sudden cardiac arrest – a rapid, unexpected loss of heart function, breathing and consciousness. According to the Mayo Foundation, “Sudden cardiac arrest is a medical emergency. If not treated immediately, it causes sudden cardiac death. With fast, appropriate medical care, survival is possible.” According the American Heart Association, 400,000 to 460,000 die each year of cardiac arrest, and 13 percent of these deaths occur in the workplace. With more than one in three adults having one or more types of cardiovascular disease – or 81,100,000 Americans – it’s too great of a risk to not be prepared or, worse, to ignore it.
Death in the workplace is a challenge on a variety of levels for both the employer as well as the surviving coworkers. Most notable is the emotional aspects that follow after a death – depression, anxiety, fear, decreased morale, etc. What also affects the organization as a whole is the deceased employee’s intellectual and institutional knowledge, as well as higher insurance premiums, possible litigation and financial strain that directly impact the survivors at the place of employment. While it is nearly impossible to put a price tag on the death of a coworker, there are many financial repercussions that will be carried by the surviving workforce. In Occupational Health & Safety, Robert Ambrose identifies that it costs the employer 175 percent of that worker’s annual salary to rehire for the position.
What’s less simple to articulate is the emotional impact suffered when a coworker dies – a story that Maverick Transportation, LLC knows too well. When one of their employees, Vice President of Sales and Marketing Brad Scott, died from sudden cardiac arrest, the company immediately decided to do everything it could to help avoid such a tragic loss in the future. They contacted Ben Wellons, pres¬ident of eMed, a Little Rock based company that provides Automated External Defibrillator (AED) and other emergency medical equipment and training. Maverick ordered an Automated External Defibrillator to be placed in every building throughout their nationwide network of offices and terminals. Brad’s wife Laura Scott, also an employee at Maverick Transportation, honors the company’s decision to attempt to prevent this in the future. In reflection, Laura Scott said, “I believe it was Brad’s time, it was such a massive heart attack,” noting his family history of heart disease and a previous attack. “But there are so many lives that can be saved – have been saved – by simply being ready.”
What can an organization do to prevent such a tragedy from happening in their workplace?
1. Establish a workplace culture of health and wellness. Provide a break room that offers water and healthy snack choices like fruits, vegetables and whole grain crackers. Allow employees time for exercising and encourage the use of Flex Spending plans.
2. Ensure all of your offices or facilities have the proper life saving equipment including an Automated External Defibrillator, CPR masks and ample and accessible telephones to call 911 if ever required.
3. Coordinate employee screenings so they can confidentially learn if they have any health risk factors they should address. Recently The Citizen Safety Institute confidentially and personally screened employees at Los Angeles International Airport and found that 15% of the men and nearly 26% of the women had a significant risk of having a cardiac arrest within the next two years. Ensure that you provide suggestions so that at-risk employees follow up with their health care provider and all employees receive tips on how to improve their overall heart health.
4. In the event a death occurs in your workplace, provide employees with heartfelt bereavement resources, allowing them time to internalize the effects of the tragedy.
Sudden cardiac arrest is a widespread, silent tragedy that is unpredictable. However, as an employer you can do your part to mitigate the tragedy through health and wellness education and proper emergency medical products such as an Automated External Defibrillator. This will keep your workplace healthy and safe.