EDMONTON – Your nightmare begins when someone in your office clutches their chest and suddenly falls to the floor. This could be a cardiac arrest, when the heart suddenly stops pumping blood, and what you and your co-workers do in the next few minutes could mean the difference between life and death.

   Defibrillating a cardiac arrest victim used to happen only in the Emergency Room. Now the WCB has the ability to treat this condition right in their offices. “Through its Centre of Excellence, the WCB-Alberta researches, develops and disseminates best practices in the area of injury prevention and disability management,” details Doug Mah, project lead for the Centre of Excellence. “The latest lifesaver is called an automated external defibrillator (AED). As a health and safety best practice the WCB-Alberta has decided to acquire AEDs for each of our four buildings, train the appropriate staff and implement a program for their use.”

   A sudden cardiac arrest can happen any time and often occurs to individuals with no previous heart trouble. After a cardiac arrest the heart muscle is still active but it quivers and fibrillates in a disorganized way and only a defibrillating shock can re-start the heart. An AED administers a shock that gets the heart beating on its own again. The machine weighs about fourpounds and is smaller than a hardcover book. When its electrodes are attached to the victim’s body, it diagnoses the heart rhythm and decides whether or not to defibrillate, while issuing verbal commands to the user. It also records data that can be used later by hospital staff.

   Both Edmonton and Calgary have superb paramedic services with rapid response times. Edmonton’s best practice standard is to respond to calls in less than nine minutes while Calgary commits to responding in under eight minutes. With such excellent ambulance response times, superbly trained paramedics, and the latest defibrillation equipment on ambulances why should an urban office or industrial site even have an AED?

   The answer lies in the mortality statistics associated with ventricular fibrillation. “There is a seven to 10 per cent increase in mortality per minute until a defibrillating shock is applied. Beyond 10 minutes, survival is 2 per cent or less,” explains Dr. John Hickie, a medical advisor in WCB’s Calgary office who also works in acute care. “It is obvious the first few minutes of a cardiac arrest are the most crucial.”

   Heart disease and stroke kill more than 79,000 Canadians every year. That is 38 per cent of all deaths, 10 per cent more than the number caused by all forms of cancer combined.

   “A majority of individuals spend a third of their time at work – so individuals stand a 33 per cent chance of having a heart attack or stroke while they are there,” concludes Dr. Hickie. “AEDs are rapidly becoming the new standard in first responder equipment and training. No other single piece of first aid equipment comes close in terms of the ability to save lives.”

   The Workers’ Compensation Board – Alberta is a not-for-profit mutual insurance corporation funded entirely by employers. The WCB provides cost effective workplace liability and disability insurance to more than one million workers and 93,000 employers.

   For further information: Kelly Eby, Corporate Communications, (780)498-8685