Policies and Training

Preparing Employees and Security Officers for Workplace Medical Emergencies

Serious first-aid events in the workplace will require a team approach, using help and support from security officers or security managers, employees, and their supervisors. Security employees may be the first on the scene or should be ready to direct paramedics to the right location in the facility, so they can provide aid to a stricken employee.

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With over 350,000 cardiac arrests taking place outside of a healthcare setting, heart attacks are still one of the main causes of death in this country. The arrival of medical aid in a workplace will almost always be stressful to employees who either witness or encounter a coworker in distress. Like passing a car accident on the highway, where other drivers assume someone has already called the state police or highway patrol, many employees who are not trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) often assume another employee who has had the training will step up to help. This raises a parallel issue, where all employees must be told by company policy to be ready to call 911 in a medical emergency, unless they can verify that someone has already done it.

It’s critical to provide CPR and/or automated external defibrillator (AED) training to security officers (usually as a mandated requirement from the contract security provider) and the employees, many of whom want it. Two 2017 surveys conducted by the American Heart Association (AHA) suggested that more than 90 percent of employees would take CPR or AED training if it was offered at their workplaces. Typical reasons given by some company leaders for not offering this training include: “It takes too much time to run everyone through the classes. It takes employees away from their work. People won’t want to give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to someone they hardly know, would they? Or, it opens us up to liability if an employee tries to perform CPR or use an AED and fails. Perhaps we could get sued by the victim’s family.”

In reality, the AHA and Red Cross recommend that the chest compressions part of CPR are actually more beneficial to the life-saving possibility for the person in distress than the breath-compressions combination. AHA “Heartsaver” classes (www.cpr.heart.org) are taught to employees online first and then finished live with an AHA-certified instructor, usually in under 3 to 4 hours. Because of so-called “Good Samaritan” laws in all 50 states, there is no liability for employees or security officers who use good-faith efforts to perform CPR or use an AED. People who attempt to save a life are shielded from civil liability; otherwise most people wouldn’t touch someone if they thought they could get sued. Having employees and security officers all trained in CPR and AED use lessens the possibility they would ever have to stand helplessly by while an employee lay dying in front of them, because they weren’t sure what to do.

Installing AEDs at key employee areas (and having employees all trained to use them)—near the breakroom, in the lobby, on each floor—can create a better sense of teamwork and a fast, proper reaction, where the organization demonstrates due diligence, and the employees feel more comfortable about giving their best responses to an always-distressing event. At a minimum, if all employees can’t or don’t want CPR or AED training, the employees and security officers who have had the training should remind the people around them that they can help in a future medical crisis.