Get Advice Before You Purchase Rescue Equipment

I recently visited one of my favorite Long Island vineyards and noticed a sticker on the front door that read “AED Equipped”. Since I make my living by training people to help others in medical emergencies, I figured I would chat with a manager over a nice glass of Pinot.

Like many responsible companies, this winery reacted to an emergency that occurred on their property. The management agreed that it was important for staff to know CPR and on the suggestion of their CPR instructor, they purchased an AED. This particular AED came with a bonus bottle of oxygen connected to a pocket face mask. With the best of intentions they did what they were told was the right thing to prepare for the next medical emergency. They are now ready for anything . . . except a lawyer.

Please allow me to preface what is about to follow by saying that in no way do I want to discourage a company from purchasing an AED and training employees how to use them. In fact, I believe that AEDs should be deployed in as many places as possible. If you go to Seattle, Washington, you will see AEDs pretty much everywhere. In order to graduate high school or renew a driver’s license, citizens are required to refresh CPR/AED training. As a result, the sudden cardiac arrest survival rate is about five times greater than the national average.

I do, however, want you to be aware of the legalities and responsibilities involved with owning an AED and other rescue equipment. I strongly encourage you to contact a professional in this field before making your purchase. A professional can help you select equipment that is right for you and can help you comply with all applicable laws.

In 1998, New York State passed the Public Access Defibrillator (PAD) Law (Public Health Law Article 30 Section 3000b). The intention of this law was to make AEDs more accessible to the public. But the State also has the responsibility to make sure those AEDs are used on people who need them and that they will function as intended when used. Therefore, the law also includes a provision that every AED is overseen by a licensed physician and a Regional Emergency Medical Services Committee (REMAC). In addition, every PAD must be maintained (including the timely replacement of expiring batteries and electrode pads), software upgrades must be downloaded appropriately, and the owner must comply with all corrective actions resulting from a manufacturer recall. The data from each usage must also be retrieved and submitted to the REMAC for quality improvement studies. In Suffolk County, the REMAC requires that personnel are trained annually to use the AED, regardless of the expiration on your CPR card. Finally, the AED must be available to the public and notices must be posted as to where the AED is located.

Just like a fire extinguisher, if your company has medical oxygen for emergency use, regardless of how big or small the tank is, your personnel must be trained in how to use it. This includes set-up, handling, and administration. The United States Department Of Transportation requires that the oxygen tanks be hydrostatically tested every five years for leaks and metal fatigue.

If you are training personnel to use the AED and oxygen, you are expecting them to administer first aid. Therefore, OSHA requires that you protect your workers against blood and airborne diseases (29 CFR 1910.1030). This includes providing personal protective equipment such as gloves and pocket face masks, holding annual training sessions, having an exposure control plan, and providing employees the opportunity to be vaccinated against Hepatitis B.

Although my favorite winery has some legal compliance work ahead of them, it is a good feeling to know that there are people trained to save my life. Suddenly, that Pinot tastes even better.

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