Memo 5/12: Automatic External Defibrillators (AED)

The Safety Office receives an increasing number of enquiries from departments about the University’s policy on automatic external defibrillators to treat persons in sudden cardiac arrest. Many enquiries come from staff who have either undertaken or refreshed their First Aid at Work (FAW) qualification. Although FAW courses do not cover the use of defibrillators, AEDs are now generally considered to be a standard item of first aid equipment, saving thousands of lives if they are used promptly.

There is no policy on AEDs and it is at each department’s discretion whether or not an AED is provided. However, the Safety Office would support their provision, although it is not in a position to fund them. All costs must be borne by the department.

Previously there were onerous and ongoing training and maintenance requirements for AEDs that made them potentially costly and burdensome for widespread application. The consequences of having a unit that was not maintained and without staff adequately trained to use it were self-evident. However, many of the current models are largely maintenance free and many new AEDs guide the user through the process by audible or visual prompts without requiring any discretion or judgment. Their ease of use and safeguards now mean that they can be used in extremis by untrained members of staff, although training in their use is highly desirable, and an approach endorsed by the Health and Safety Executive.

The Safety Office therefore strongly recommends the following, if any department should decide to purchase a defibrillator:

  1. Departmental first aid personnel should be identified as ‘first responders’ for situations where an AED needs to be used.
  2. ‘First responders’ should be provided with training in their use, and suitable training records should be kept.
  3. An individual should be formally named to be responsible for any maintenance checks on the AED and any associated accessories, such as batteries and pads, and a record of the checks should also be kept. Maintenance checks will be based on each manufacturer’s specific recommendations for the model in use.
  4. AEDs should be located in a central or readily accessible location, this may be alongside the department’s main first aid station.
  5. Information relating to the location of and the maintenance arrangements for the AED should be documented in the department’s statement of safety organisation, analogous to the department’s first aid arrangements.

Departments should note that there is a suitable internal training provider and the Safety Office can refer departments, on request, so that training may be arranged at a time that is mutually convenient. Alternatively departments may source their own external training. In both cases, however, the costs of the training must be met by the department.

J Black

16 May 2012