To Restart a Heart


It is a fact that many construction workers are, by physical conditioning alone, ill suited to the routine rigors on most jobsites.  Even the youngest and fittest workers could be at significant cardiac risk because, while their muscles may be fit, their hearts are not. Recent studies show that more and more these days, the bodies beneath those hardhats are getting older. And as a result, our industry’s overall approach to health and safety needs to get smarter.


In spite of revamped efforts in recent years to draw younger recruits into the construction industry, the construction workforce still is aging more rapidly than it can replenish its ranks. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that by 2010, U.S. workers aged 45 and older will finally outnumber those below 45. And, as of 2001, there were already nearly 1 million U.S. construction workers aged 55 or older, according to the BLS.


Older workers mean greater health problems. A recent study indicates that construction employs roughly 5% of the U.S. workforce, but accounts for a disproportionate number of occupational fatalities – approximately 21%. Typically, our safety efforts tend to focus on the most prevalent causes of death, namely falls, struck-by, caught in/between, and electrocution.


Less accurate is the data on workers who succumb to sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) resulting from Coronary Heart Disease and heart attacks. Coronary Heart Disease is the leading cause of death for adults in the United States and accounts for nearly 500,000 deaths each year. We also know how to save most SCA victims. One key to the solution is cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Properly done it keeps blood and oxygen circulating to vital organs of the human body and buys time while help is on the way.  The help that is needed is an electrical “jump start” for the heart, which can be provided by an Automated External Defibrillator (AED). A person in cardiac arrest needs defibrillation to restore the heart’s normal rhythm.  A person has the best chance of surviving cardiac arrest if a bystander does CPR and uses an AED within several minutes of the cardiac arrest.  Statistics have shown that immediate treatment of a sudden cardiac arrest victim with a defibrillator gives the victim better than a 90% survival rate. For every minute that elapses without defibrillation, nearly 10% fewer survive, and after 10 minutes, survival rates plummet.


Justifiable Expense


Thomas Safety Solutions supports the placement of Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) in every contractor’s office and jobsite around the country. These units are a small investment with almost guaranteed rewards, even if it’s only in the peace of mind of knowing that they’re nearby.


But the benefits of AEDs are usually much more tangible. AEDs are being placed in many public places such as shopping centers, malls, airports, stadiums, and convention centers so that SCA sufferers would never be more than a minute away from such a device.  Pleasingly, I read a testimonial to an online survey conducted by The International Risk Management Institute (IRMI) where readers were asked to share their experiences with AEDs:

  • When I joined Plaza Construction (in 1998) as the company safety director, I was determined to get a defibrillator program in use at our office. The first year an AED was purchased, only a few employees were interested and had no real drive for the program.  Everything changed last May when a Laborer was in the office and collapsed with sudden cardiac arrest. We saved a life that day, and this one use stimulated all of our employees to get involved. We now have 95 employees trained in American Red Cross CPR with the AED training.  Plaza is the first construction company in New York to have on its construction site (as a pilot program) an AED machine. All Plaza Construction staff members on the job site are trained to use this life saving equipment in the event of a sudden cardiac arrest.

-Mary Ellen Sacchetti, VP, Safety Director,

-Plaza Construction, New York

I just read that Plaza Construction now has two units in their main office, and three more on different jobsites, Ms. Sacchetti, also indicated that two other large New York contractors have talked to her about possibly outfitting their own operations with AEDs.


Miracles Made Easy


Today, you don’t have to be a medical professional or an EMT to use an AED. Once applied to a victim, an AED analyzes the heart’s rhythm and if necessary, tells the responder to deliver a shock to a victim of cardiac arrest, a pre-recorded voice warns all to stand “CLEAR” while the shock is delivered. It then gives further step-by-step instructions to the responder. Thomas Safety Solutions is an authorized provider of the American Red Cross Lay Responder First Aid CPR/AED training course.


Finally, the concern that is most often raised by contractors about the use of AEDs is that of liability. But case law has consistently held that Good Samaritan laws give legal protection to people who gratuitously provide emergency care to ill or injured persons. So, what are you waiting for? The life you save could be your own.

For more information on this topic, feel free to contact Thomas Safety Solutions, or visit and click on “Training.”



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