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Brick firm takes worker safety to heart

By Mari-Len De Guzman
| www.cos-mag.com

When Canadian brick manufacturer Brampton Brick decided toinvest in automated external defibrillators (AEDs), it did so with the healthand safety of its aging workforce in mind.

“Our employee turnover rate is next to zero,” says NickBartzis, health and safety coordinator for Brampton Brick. “People that come to(work at) Brampton Brick usually retire at Brampton Brick.”

An AED is a small, portable device that assesses the heartof a person in cardiac arrest for a “shockable” rhythm. If such a rhythm isdetected, a button is pressed to deliver a shock or series of shocks to thevictim’s heart, stopping it to allow it to return to a normal rhythm, accordingto a definition by Canada’s Heart and Stroke Foundation.

Brampton Brick recently purchased six AEDs and deployed themacross all its office locations in Ontario and in Wixom, Michigan. In addition,the company maintains a “standby” unit, which serves as a mobile AED brought tovarious offsite functions such as Christmas parties and family picnics, Bartzissays.

The company has since built AED training into its regularCPR and first aid training classes for employees, Bartzis says. “Our health andsafety training is coming up and I believe we have 30 people at our Bramptoncampus that going to be learning how to use the defibrillator and updatingtheir CPR.”

Its aging workforce, however, is not the only reason for thecompany’s decision to invest in AED units, Bartzis says. “It’s all aboutprotecting our employees. That is important to us as an organization because ofour moral obligation to our employees and our unwritten obligation to theirfamilies to do whatever we can in the workplace to ensure the safety of theworkers.”

That’s why the company spent a significant amount of timeresearching and evaluating various AED products before settling on one, CardiacScience’s Powerheart AED. Bartzis says reliability and ease-of-use were themost important criteria when deciding on a product.

The Powerheart unit performs a self-test on a daily basis toensure that the machine is functioning and will function properly in the eventof a cardiac emergency, says Bartzis.

“Reliability of the unit is important to me. I don’t want tobe in a position where we spend the money on AEDs for it to come off the wallwhen it’s needed and then not work,” he explains.

It was also important that the language and instructions onthe AED unit are clear for whoever is using it, he notes.

Powerheart also features bipolar pads that allow first aidattendants to place the pads “on the patient’s bare chest” without having toworry about whether they are placing them on the right spot, Bartzis says.

“With some of the manufacturers, one of the pads has to beplaced up near the right collar bone. The other pad must be placed on theinjured worker’s left side,” he explains. “With the Cardiac Science unit, itdoesn’t matter which pad goes in which location. I don’t have to look at a padand say, ‘this one goes here and that one goes there.’”

The use of AEDs, when combined with CPR, may increase thesurvival rate of a person suffering from sudden cardiac arrest by 75 per cent,according to data from the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

An average of 40,000 cardiac arrests happen in Canada eachyear and 80 per cent of that take place outside the hospital setting, accordingto the foundation, which has begun a campaign and fundraising to install AEDsacross public places in Ontario.

“We received $3 million from the provincial government tohelp roll out a program of placing 1,000 defibrillators across Ontario publicplaces, focusing on recreation centres and arenas,” says Nadia Yee, seniormanager for government relations at the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

While defibrillators were previously only used by medicaland paramedical personnel, the introduction of more easy to use and thedeclining cost of AEDs are making them viable for use outside the medical setting,says Yee.

Although the Heart and Stroke Foundation’s Start a Heart andSave a Life campaign is initially focused on putting defibrillators in publicplaces, Yee says having AEDs in workplaces is as important.

“We would love to see these defibrillators being placed andbeing as common as fire extinguishers,” she says. “We find that they are justas important, if not more so, in saving lives.”

But while companies, such as Brampton Brick, have taken the initiative to invest in AEDs, there is no legislative requirementto have defibrillators in workplaces.

“It would be nice to see a requirement for it at some point,maybe in the Building Code stage, but I don’t think we’re there yet,” says Yee.“But I think maybe a long way down the road that might be where we’re at.”

The awareness among organizations around the importance ofAEDs, however, has been rising, says Ed Kennedy, North American director ofdistribution for Cardiac Science.

And it’s not only the aging workforce that are at risk ofsudden cardiac arrest [span style="font-family: Symbol; "]

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even healthy teenagers have succumbed to it, saysKennedy.

“That’s why in the U.S. many laws have been passed requiringAEDs in schools to protect our young children. States like Pennsylvania, NewYork, New Jersey and about a dozen others have passed legislation becausesudden cardiac arrest affects all ages,” he says. 

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