Striving for a Culture Change in Your Wellness Program (Part 1)

Great article from our partner, United Benefit Advisors (UBA) by Heather Mills

Many of us have seen or heard about the various wellness programs referred to as “participation–based” programs. These participation-only programs continue to be the starting point for many organizations when they enter the world of workplace wellness. Participatory programs typically include a few individual and team-based activities, offer a level of electronic or onsite seminar education, and offer employees biometric screening and personal health risk assessments. Organizations may even award prizes, hold drawings, or offer giveaways.
These programs are typically created with the goals of promoting and encouraging healthier lifestyles for their employees and their families, reducing healthcare costs of the organization, or simply because ownership feels it is the right thing to do.Fast forward a few years, and the same program is being offered. In most cases, employees have received some education and had fun, but the organization has yet to meet its original goals or experience a real culture change. Employees still seem to be leading unhealthy lifestyles, productivity and morale seem lower than ever, and healthcare claims continue to skyrocket. So why do you even have this wellness program?In my eight years working as Wellness Program Manager for a mid-sized benefits consulting firm, I have been a part of and have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly of the programs. I have learned from mistakes made early on, and I value sharing those experiences with those I have the opportunity to consult with. I share firsthand examples from my own company’s program, as well as the experiences of my clients and other business partners. A program set up successfully – with the right support, tools, partners, and initial incentives – will absolutely reap the reward, and your organization should recognize a true cultural change.These are the key factors that I believe contribute most to the success of a wellness program.1. Secure senior management commitment and participation.

It is easy for business owners to say they want a wellness program, but it is a different story when they actually embrace the concept, support the process, and engage in the program themselves. Owners of organizations have come to me for help in implementing a wellness program. They assign one person to be in charge of the program, typically someone whose time is already limited, and for one reason or another the program stalls. If the top leadership of the organization is not supportive or engaged, it could take anywhere from six months to five years trying to get a sustainable wellness program off the ground. The program may not even take off at all.

I have seen these programs fizzle for many reasons, including a shift in business objectives, lack of established goals, or lack of participation or role-modeling from management or ownership. It can be recognized early whether a program is going to succeed by the support it has from its leaders. Think of a successful program much like the game “follow the leader.” Good leaders and owners should not only sponsor the program, but should also be actively engaged and supporting it, leading by example. When employees see owners and employers participating and supporting the program, they too will “follow the leader.” Once you have backing from the people who invoke change within your organization, laying the groundwork for the program will become a smoother process.

2.  Survey the organization and gather aggregate data to establish need and risk areas.

Once you have built the foundation, it is a good time to collect and gather data to determine need and evaluate aggregate risks in the organization. Of those organizations that created the participatory programs we discussed earlier, how many of them do you think actually asked their employees first what they wanted or needed in order to change unhealthy behaviors or lead a healthy lifestyle? What lifestyle-related claims is the organization experiencing that might be able to be controlled with interventions? What health risks exist within the organization? Organizations typically roll out the program before they gather the data, and then look back and wonder why their participation in their program was so low. Logically, it is because the employees didn’t want or need it or see the value.

When working with a benefits consulting firm, organizations ask for employees to be surveyed annually on their likes and dislikes in medical and dental coverage. It only makes sense that employees also be surveyed about their needs in a wellness program. The employee wellness survey may include questions about areas where they may want help, programs they would be willing to participate in, what would motivate them to engage in the program, and whether or not they are even looking to make any changes. Do not worry or be discouraged, as there is always five to ten percent of a population that is resistant to anything and will never participate regardless of what you provide.

Additional data is then obtained by analyzing your organization’s aggregate claims, if data is available. Along with claims data, organizations may also compile aggregate data through health screenings, biometrics, health and fitness diagnostics and assessments, blood work, and more.

3.  Utilize existing tools and resources, establish partnerships and seek guidance.

Many organizations may not be aware of the variety of wellness program tools and resources available to them. First, look to your benefits insurance consultant. Qualified, reputable benefit consulting firms now have credentialed wellness program managers or coordinators on staff to work alongside you and your team. Consultants can help navigate what is available to you from your insurance carrier or third party administrator and are likely tapped into local and national resources, wellness vendors, and other workplace wellness tools. One of the best parts of my role as a Wellness Program Manager is to share my passion for wellness with our clients and help them design a sustainable program. If you have a benefits consultant that is not providing this level of support or staff, it is worth inquiring.

Establish a partnership with a wellness vendor. This is one resource that is often overlooked because organizations try to do it themselves. Sustainable programs have vendors that can design programs based on need and risk, manage day-to-day program tasks, provide ongoing reporting, and recommend best practices for goal achievement.

Over the last few years, hundreds of new wellness vendors have entered the marketplace. I have worked with great vendors and vendors that I will not work with again. Employers should not settle for a “cookie cutter” program. Look for a partner that shares a similar view on wellness, one who will customize a program to satisfy your organization’s objectives. Ensure that you partner with a vendor that offers actual guidance and management of your program. CAUTION: Many vendors promote account management as a top service they provide, but few deliver. A great way to find the right vendor is through the partnerships your employee benefits consultant has established or from other business referrals and testimonials. When I place a client with a vendor, the most important thing I look for is the type of service my client will receive. Accept nothing but high quality and service.

Subscribe to the UBA blog for part 2 in this series, which will cover the final steps to successfully set up a program with the right support, tools, partners, and initial incentives.

For additional trends among wellness programs, download In UBA’s new whitepaper: “Wellness Programs — Good for You & Good for Your Organization”.

To understand legal requirements for wellness programs, request UBA’s ACA Advisor, “Understanding Wellness Programs and Their Legal Requirements,” which reviews the five most critical questions that wellness program sponsors should ask and work through to determine the obligations of their wellness program under the ACA, HIPAA, ADA, GINA, and ERISA, as well as considerations for wellness programs that involve tobacco use in any way. With over 20 pages of comprehensive guidance, examples and frequently asked questions, this is an invaluable employer resource.

For the latest statistics from the UBA survey examining wellness program design among 19,557 health plans and 11,524 employers, pre-order UBA’s 2016 Health Plan Survey Executive Summary which will be available to the public in late September.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Mills, H. (2016 September 9). Striving for a culture change in your wellness program. [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://blog.ubabenefits.com/striving-for-a-culture-change-in-your-wellness-program-part-1


Why Employers Should Consider Mindfulness Training as an Employee Benefit

Original post benefitsnews.com

Resilience gained attention in the 1970s as psychologists and trauma researchers began to articulate the amazing ability of many people to bounce back following a devastating event, crisis or injury. Over time, researchers have identified the characteristics of resilient people, and have identified how to train people to develop skills to increase their resilience. Hence, resilience has evolved to reflect a coping style that allows someone to endure during difficult times and emerge more competent and skillful in dealing with challenges.

A growing body of evidence suggests that mindfulness is particularly important for developing resilience at work, through its effects on employee physical and psychological health, absenteeism, turnover, and in-role performance. Here are some of the findings:

  • In workplace samples, mindfulness has been linked to reduced levels of reported burnout, perceived stress, work-family conflict, and negative moods, along with better sleep quality.
  • In studies where employees were randomly assigned to a self-directed mindfulness intervention or a control group, those in the mindfulness intervention reported greater job satisfaction and less emotional exhaustion. Similar effects have been found in a range of occupations, including doctors, soldiers and teachers.
  • Mindfulness has been linked to increased psychological capital and resilience in managers and entrepreneurs.
  • Mindfulness training predicted employee engagement among employees at the Mayo Clinic. Additional studies have further shown that such engagement may be mediated by greater authenticity, positive emotions, hope and optimism.

Developing a formal mindfulness practice is thought to increase resilience in three ways:

1. Flexible cognition. Practicing mindfulness may actually rewire our brain circuitry, improving our ability to think flexibly, more easily perceiving different perspectives and generating novel solutions to problems. This same skill may allow one to observe potentially toxic workplace events while adopting a “decentered perspective,” making perceived stressors appear less threatening.

Imagine an employee witnesses verbal aggression directed at a fellow co-worker, which causes the employee to feel physiological reactivity and psychological stress. Experiencing the event with mindful attention could decouple this automatic link between the toxic experience and emotional reactivity, leaving them feeling less depleted. This reinterpretation of events actually starts to form new habits of thinking, which may involve perception of stressors as challenges that elicit growth, rather than as hindrances. In addition, application of mindfulness skills may elicit compassion for the fellow co-worker.

2. Growth in the face of adversity. Research shows that exposure to a threat without being overcome by that threat can result in higher levels of well-being than not experiencing the threat at all. In other words, experiencing but quickly recovering from workplace stress may indeed make an employee stronger.

So where does mindfulness fit in? Mindful individuals show an ability to perceive stressful and adverse situations from different angles, and demonstrate a willingness to behave more flexibly in response to them. As workers successfully experiment with new coping behaviors, they experience increased confidence and stronger self-efficacy, improving their ability to deal with many types of challenging situations and developing greater resilience.

3. Positive thinking. Positive emotions play a crucial role in one’s ability to recover physically from adverse events, as well to facilitate better emotion and behavior self-regulation. Mindfulness not only enhances regulation of negative emotions, but also cultivates positive emotions. It’s not that resilient people don’t experience negative emotions like anyone else; they do. Resilient people, however, do not dwell on them. Rather, they have learned how to use their attention and other internal resources to notice and amplify pleasant experiences and meaningful events as well.

To summarize, mindfulness may improve employee resilience by training the mind to reinterpret stressors as less personally threatening, empowering workers to take new perspectives and try new behaviors, which may actually result in growth in the face of challenges, and cultivating positive thinking, which is especially important during hardships. A new wave of resilience research is supporting the idea that mindfulness practice may lead to improved workplace outcomes like job satisfaction, retention, and employee health.


Moving from Employee Wellness to Employee Well-Being

Original post ubabenefits.com

The terms “wellness” and “well-being” are often used interchangeably; however, they mean very different things when applied to workplace health promotion. Traditionally speaking, employee “wellness” programs have primarily focused on just physical health. Whereas employee “well-being” programs emphasize emotional, mental, social, and financial health in addition to physical health.

With the addition of millennials in the workplace coupled with the aging working population, organizations are realizing that the traditional approach to workplace health promotion isn’t enough. Employers have begun to take a more holistic approach to employee health and are now beginning to focus on well-being. According to the 7th annual survey on corporate health & well-being employers are expanding programs to focus on improving employees’ emotional and financial well-being. This includes offering education and resources focused on stress management, work-life balance and financial health. There is also a social aspect in well-being programs which encourage team-building and boosting morale.

Generally speaking, employee well-being programs tend to be more inviting than traditional wellness programs. Well-being programs offer a larger variety of activities and resources which are based upon interest as well as need. These programs have a greater focus on the “fun factor” the program’s appeal to a broader employee population.

The motivation for employers to offer employee well-being programs has also increased. The desire to address soaring health care costs and increase productivity while reducing presenteeism and absenteeism remains a top priority. However, employers are now positioning their well-being programs to attract top talent and to encourage employee engagement. Employers seek to become an employer of choice by offering thoughtfully designed plans. This is especially valuable if you are looking to acquire millennial talent which tends to be enticed by such offerings.

How do you start an employee well-being program?

There are seven common elements in successful wellness programs, according to the Wellness Council of America. Common elements in successful wellness and well-being program development include the following:

  • Garner C-suite support
  • Develop a cohesive wellness team
  • Collect data to drive a results-oriented wellness initiative
  • Create an operating plan
  • Choose appropriate interventions
  • Create a supportive, health-promoting environment
  • Carefully evaluate outcomes

June 2016 will mark the 8th annual National Employee Wellbeing Month. If your organization has not yet implemented a well-being program, now is a great time to start. Well-being programs are significant additions to a fringe benefit program—for employees and employers.


Wellness: There’s Always Time for a Workout

Original post ubabenefits.com

An often heard excuse for people not exercising is that they don’t have time to do it. We all have time for something, it just depends on whether we want to make time for it. Consider this: If you think you’re too busy to work out, but then an activity comes up you want to do, I’m willing to bet that you’ll find a way to do that activity. But maybe you really are too busy to exercise either before or after work. Are there any options?

Enter the lunchtime workout. Nearly everyone who has a job will take time to eat lunch. Now, suppose you replace some of that time with exercise? See how easy it was to find those precious minutes? If you want to use your real excuse for not wanting to work out, now would be the moment to do it.

If, on the other hand, you’re intrigued with this newfound possibility for self-improvement, read on. An article on The Washington Post’swebsite titled, “How to Actually Get a Good Lunchtime Workout, Even If You Can’t Leave the Office” has some excellent tips on the ways to maximize your fitness routine in a short timeframe.

As with most things, those who fail to plan, plan to fail. Are you still going to eat? Are you able to take a shower afterward? Will you want a change of clothing? Make a checklist of everything you think you’ll need. This may include your workout clothes and shoes, a small lunch, fresh underwear or an entire outfit, deodorant, dry shampoo or baby wipes to help freshen up if you’re not able to take a shower, shower supplies if you are able to take one, and bottled water to keep hydrated. If this seems too much, then think about what items you’re able to keep at the office so that you can pack light the other times.

Before you begin your lunchtime workout, you need to consider how much to eat ahead of time. If you’re going to run, or do a high-intensity exercise, then a good breakfast might be the best course of action. If your exercise routine is at a more reasonable pace, then it’s perfectly okay to eat a small lunch or a piece of fruit before you start as long as your body can tolerate it. That way, you’ll have plenty of fuel to burn and maintain blood sugar levels during your workout. When you’re done exercising, a blend of both protein and carbohydrates is ideal.

Now you’re ready to work out! If your office is near a park or trail, then that’s an easy way to get in a quick run. If you’re not near one of those, or it’s too cold or raining outside, then see if there’s a nearby gym. Barring that, bring a small set of dumbbells into your office or go to the stairs and run up and down them for a few intervals. There are numerous free apps available online with a plethora of 30-minute strength, cardio, and other training routines. These will help you tailor your workout for whatever time and equipment is available. All you need is the motivation to start!

Here are the top 10 most costly U.S. workplace injuries

Original post lifehealthpro.com

Workplace injuries and accidents are the near the top of every employer’s list of concerns. Here is the countdown of the top 10 causes and direct costs of the most disabling U.S. workplace injuries. The definitions and examples are found at the BLS website.

  1. Repetitive motions involving micro-tasks

Some of these tasks may include a word processor who looks from the computer monitor to a document and back several times a day or the cashier at the local grocery store who is scanning and bagging groceries for several hours at a time.

  1. Struck against object or equipment

This category of workplace injury applies to workers who are hurt by forcible contact or impact, for example, an office worker who bumps into a filing cabinet or an assembly line worker who stubs a toe on stacked parts.

  1. Caught in or compressed by equipment or objects

These workplace injuries result from workers being caught in equipment or machinery that’s still running as well as in rolling, shifting or sliding objects.

Picture the scene in a movie in which wine barrels topple over, catching the bad guy beneath them, only in this case, it’s the employee whose job it may be to stack the barrels. Perhaps it’s the experienced worker who removes a machine guard to dislodge material that’s stuck and gets a finger caught when the machine starts moving again.

  1. Slip or trip without fall

Occasionally, workers do slip or trip without hitting the ground. Think of the employee entering the workplace who slips on icy stairs but is able to grab the handrail to prevent hitting the ground. But the action of grabbing the handrail may cause the employee to injure his shoulder or wrench her knee.

  1. Roadway incidents involving motorized land vehicle

The worker may be the driver, a passenger or a pedestrian, but the cause of the injury is an automobile, truck or motorcycle.

  1. Other exertions or bodily reactions

These motions include bending, crawling, reaching, twisting, climbing or stepping, according to the BLS. Consider, for example, a roofing contractor’s employees who are continually climbing up and down ladders.

  1. Struck by object or equipment

This category covers a range of possible injuries, from being struck by an object dropped by a fellow worker to being caught in a swinging door or gate. Picture the construction worker on a scaffold dropping a hammer on the worker below.

  1. Falls to lower level

The roofer could fall to the ground from the roof or ladder, or an office worker standing on a stepstool, reaching for a heavy file box, could fall to the floor.

  1. Falls on same level

The second most costly workplace injury, surprisingly, is a fall on the same level. Picture the employee who is walking through the office and falls over an uneven floor surface or someone leaning too far back in an office chair and toppling over.

  1. Overexertion involving an outside source

The BLS explains that overexertion occurs when the physical effort of a worker who lifts, pulls, pushes, holds, carries, wields or throws an object results in an injury.

The object being handled is often heavier than the weight that a worker should be handling or the object is handled improperly. For example, lifting from a shelf that’s too high, or in a space that’s cramped. Within the broad category of sprains, strains, and tears caused by overexertion, most incidents resulted specifically from overexertion in lifting.

Risk managers should work with their carriers and workplace safety specialists to minimize injuries, lost work days and workers’ compensation costs. With a little effort, employers can understand more about the causes of accidents and injuries in their organizations, identify the appropriate actions to reduce the number of injuries and minimize employee disabilities from workplace accidents.

 

 

Workplace injuries and accidents are the near the top of every employer’s list of concerns. Here is the countdown of the top 10 causes and direct costs of the most disabling U.S. workplace injuries.


How Naps Do Your Brain (And Body) Good

Originally posted February 13, 2015 by Carolyn Gregoire, The Huffington Post

Running seriously low on sleep? A nap can not only make you feel better, but can reverse the effects of poor sleep by restoring hormones and proteins involved in stress and immune health.

The fact that poor sleep can increase stress levels and suppress immune system activity is well-established. But according to a new small study, napping can be an effective antidote by creating measurable hormone changes.

Researchers from the Sorbonne University in Paris found that a brief nap was effective in relieving stress and strengthening immune system function in men who had only slept two hours the night before.

"Our data suggests a 30-minute nap can reverse the hormonal impact of a night of poor sleep," study co-author Dr. Brice Faraut said in a statement. "This is the first study that found napping could restore biomarkers of neuroendocrine and immune health to normal levels."

The researchers conducted sleep tests on 11 healthy men between the ages of 25 and 32. In a laboratory setting with controlled lighting and meals, the participants took part in two sessions of sleep testing. In the first session, the men were only allowed to sleep for two hours in one night. In the second session, the men were allowed to take two 30-minute naps the day following a night that they got only two hours of sleep. On the evening prior to both sessions, the subjects got eight hours of sleep.

Then, the researchers took samples of the mens' urine and saliva to test how the lack of sleep affected their hormone levels. After the night of only two hours of sleep, the mens' levels of norepinephrine -- a stress hormone and neurotransmitter involved in the fight-or-flight response, which increases heart rate, blood pressure and blood sugar -- was two and a half times higher than they were after a normal night of sleep. After a night of sleeping only two hours, the participants also exhibited a dip in interleukin-6 levels, an antiviral protein that stimulates immune response to infection or in the aftermath of trauma.

However, when the men had napped twice after a night of limited sleep, the researchers found no change in norepinephrine levels. Interleukin-6 levels also returned to normal after napping.

The findings suggest that napping can reverse the some of the negative health effects of poor sleep and can also promote overall well-being.

"Napping may offer a way to counter the damaging effects of sleep restriction by helping the immune and neuroendocrine systems to recover," Faraut explained. "The findings support the development of practical strategies for addressing chronically sleep-deprived populations, such as night and shift workers."

If that wasn't reason to get a little midday shut-eye, napping has also been shown to boost mood, productivity and creativity, and to facilitate learning and memory. A 2011 study also found that those who napped for at least 45 minutes had lower blood pressure in response to psychological stress than those who did not nap.

The findings were published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (JCEM).


GM Models First to Get Eye-Tracking Safety Tech?

Originally Posted by Left Lane News on September 2, 2014.
General Motors is reportedly on track to become the first automaker to bring eye-tracking safety tech to its lineup. Australian company Seeing Machines has partnered with supplier Takata to commercialize the technology, which monitors the driver's gaze.

If the system determines that a driver is spending too much time looking down or to the side, it can activate an audible alarm as a reminder to pay attention to the road. Seeing Machines and Takata have not yet publicly disclosed which automakers are eyeing the technology, however unnamed sources told CNBC that GM will be the first customer.

Other companies will likely be watching to see if the system actually works, and if drivers view it as an annoyance rather than a welcome safety feature.

To see the full article, go to: www.leftlanenews.com/


Just Say 'No' to Co-Workers' Halloween Candy

Originally posted on  October 14, 2014 by Josh Cable on ehstoday.com.

Workplace leftovers might seem like one of the perks of the job. But when co-workers try to pawn off their Halloween candy on the rest of the department, it's more of a trick than a treat.

Those seemingly generous and thoughtful co-workers often are just trying to keep temptation out of their homes.

"Not only does candy play tricks on your waistline, but it also turns productive workers into zombies," says Emily Tuerk, M.D., adult internal medicine physician at the Loyola University Health System and assistant professor in the Department of Medicine at the Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.

"A sugar high leads to a few minutes of initial alertness and provides a short burst of energy. But beware of the scary sugar crash. When the sugar high wears off, you'll feel tired, fatigued and hungry."

Tuerk offers a few tips to help you and others on your team avoid being haunted by leftover candy:

  • Make a pact with your co-workers to not bring in leftover candy.
  • Eat breakfast, so you don't come to work hungry.
  • Bring in alternative healthy snacks, such as low-fat yogurt, small low-fat cheese sticks, carrot sticks or cucumber slices. Vegetables are a great healthy snack. You can't overdose on vegetables.
  • Be festive without being unhealthy. Blackberries and cantaloupe are a fun way to celebrate with traditional orange and black fare without packing on the holiday pounds. Bring this to the office instead of candy as a creative and candy-free way to participate in the holiday fun.
  • If you must bring in candy, put it in an out-of-the-way location. Don't put it in people's faces so they mindlessly eat it. An Eastern Illinois University study found that office workers ate an average of nine Hershey's Kisses per week when the candy was conveniently placed on top of the desk, but only six Kisses when placed in a desk drawer and three Kisses when placed 2 feet from the desk.

And if you decide to surrender to temptation and have a treat, limit yourself to a small, bite-size piece, Tuerk adds. Moderation is key.


Flu Season Is Here. What Should Employers Do?

Nobody likes the flu. At best, it's a miserable experience. At worst, it can be deadly.

 
And the flu is expensive. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the flu costs the United States more than $87 billion annually.

 
The flu is a major cost for business. A Walgreens report found that U.S. adults missed 230 million days of work due to flu-related illness during the severe 2012-13 flu season. Plus, of course, there are productivity losses from employees who still report to work but are ineffective due to being flu-ridden.

Since seasonal flu activity can begin as early as October, it's time for employers to protect themselves from the flu.
 
According to the CDC, the most valuable step employers can take is to maximize employee vaccination.

 
"Flu is unpredictable but make no mistake -- anyone can get sick from the flu, including employees who are otherwise healthy," said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. "Influenza also negatively impacts business continuity. Businesses that want to stay productive throughout flu season should encourage and support vaccination of their employees -- vaccination is the single most effective way to protect against flu."

 
What are employers' options for supporting vaccination?

 
While in many states it is legal to require flu shots as a condition of employment, this can result in employee pushback and there are potential legal complications, so the CDC recommends the following ways to encourage the employees to get vaccinated:

 
  1. On-site flu clinics. Offering on-site vaccination at no or low cost to employees is an effective way to maximize participation. This is ideal for employers with on-site occupational health clinics, while those without clinics can contract with pharmacies and community vaccinators to provide vaccination services on-site.
     
  2. Promote vaccination. Communicate to employees why vaccination is important, and tell them where they and their families can get flu vaccines in their communities.
     
For helpful details and resources on these two options, see "Make it Your Business To Fight the Flu," the CDC's toolkit for businesses and employers.

 
Employers may also consider taking additional steps beyond supporting vaccination. Here are a few actions advocated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA):

 
  1. Encourage sick workers to stay home
     
  2. Promote hand hygiene and cough etiquette
     
  3. Keep the workplace clean
     
  4. Address travel concerns (e.g., reconsider business travel to areas with high illness rates)
     
Employers who make preventing the flu a priority will help make the flu less costly for their business. Plus, their employees will thank them for doing so.

AEDs in the Workplace

Originally posted by United Benefit Advisors (UBA).

If you've ever taken a cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) course, then you know how critical response time is to saving the life of the person in distress. According to an article by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM.org), several studies have found that for each minute of untreated cardiac arrest, the probability of survival decreases by 7% to 10%. While CPR is an extremely valuable technique, sometimes it's just not enough. That's where having an automated external defibrillator (AED) onsite could mean the difference between life and death. An AED is a medical device that's used to restore the natural rhythm of the heart. It does this via an electric shock and is one of the best emergency treatments during sudden cardiac arrest -- when the heart, without warning, abruptly stops beating. The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine states that survival rates as high as 90% have been reported when defibrillation occurs within one minute of a person collapsing from sudden cardiac arrest.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) says that approximately 10,000 sudden cardiac arrests happen in the workplace every year. It's the leading cause of death in the workplace, yet only 4% of the seven million businesses in the U.S. have an onsite AED. The lack of an AED in the workplace is a shockingly (pun intended) sad statistic. The national survival rate of sudden cardiac arrest is less than 7%. However, if an AED is used in conjunction with CPR, that survival rate skyrockets to more than 70%!

Not only response time, but preparation is key to saving a life. There needs to be a specific plan of action for employees who witness someone having sudden cardiac arrest to call 911 or other emergency medical services (EMS), start CPR, use an AED if available, and provide as much information as possible to emergency personnel when they arrive.

 

When it comes to emergency cardiovascular care (ECC), the American Heart Association provides a useful term -- Chain of Survival. The five links in the adult Chain of Survival are:

 

  • Immediate recognition of cardiac arrest and activation of the emergency response system
  • Early CPR with an emphasis on chest compressions
  • Rapid defibrillation
  • Effective advanced life support
  • Integrated post-cardiac arrest care

 

Of course, an AED is just like any other piece of equipment. Not all workplaces may be able to afford an AED or have an employee who is willing to take on the challenge of motivating and educating other employees in its use. Company representatives should assess the needs of their organization and whether an AED is necessary or expected. For example, a busy manufacturing facility is vastly different from a gym or a small office setting. In addition, AEDs require a prescription from a physician for purchase and placement in the workplace and there needs to be compliance with state laws on public access defibrillation and the federal Cardiac Arrest Survival Act.

Finally, should a company decide to install an AED, here are some simple guidelines:

  • Worksite integration: Not all employees will want or need to be trained on how to use an AED, but they should all be prepared to notify company personnel who are trained and emergency responders if an employee suffers sudden cardiac arrest.
  • Selecting the right AED: While all the devices on the market work, it's still important to comparison shop like you would for any other product and also buy one that's appropriate for the environment in which it will be placed.
  • Placement: Consider the logistics of where the AED might be used. Don't buy 10 AEDs if you only need five to be effective. Proper planning can reduce expenses while increasing effectiveness.
  • Maintenance: Like any piece of safety equipment, AEDs require maintenance. If a company has a specific person or third party that monitors its other safety equipment, then this is an easy add-on to the list.
  • Training: There are two types of training -- initial and ongoing. Besides teaching employees CPR and AED skills, it's equally important to have refresher courses and to educate people on how to apply these life-saving skills in an emergency situation.

Investing in an AED, and the programs associated with it, is a commitment to protect the lives of those in the workplace.