An automated external defibrillator (AED) is essential for construction teams and contractors. Construction employees and contractors are at risk of going into sudden cardiac arrest due to overexertion, extreme temperatures, and electrocution, and a shock from a portable defibrillator can often reverse the fatal arrhythmia that caused the arrest.
An AED guides the rescuer through both CPR and defibrillation, ensuring that you can immediately respond in the event of a sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) emergency on your job site. Choosing the right AED device will help you respond effectively in the event of a cardiac emergency.
Why Construction Workers Are at Risk for SCA
Sudden cardiac arrest occurs when the heart only quivers rather than beats. This is often due to an arrhythmia called ventricular fibrillation. Indirectly, the most common cause of sudden cardiac death is coronary artery disease (which can lead to arrhythmias). However, overexertion, extreme weather, and contact with electrical currents can also bring on SCA.
Overexertion and Extreme Temperatures
Construction workers often engage in physical labor for extended periods of time and in weather conditions that can include extreme cold or heat. Research shows that:
- Heavy physical exertion can trigger a cardiac emergency in people who are habitually sedentary.
- Exposure to extreme temperatures is associated with an increased risk of death from several cardiovascular conditions.
Accidental contact with electrical currents (such as while working on a rooftop) can convert a normal heart rhythm into ventricular fibrillation, which is fatal if not addressed. An electrical shock from an AED—combined with immediate CPR and activation of the EMS system—can often save the person’s life.
How to Choose the Best AED for Construction
While any FDA-approved AED can be an asset, certain qualities are especially important in a construction AED:
- Ease of use
- An excellent IP rating
- A long-lasting battery
- A long-lasting warranty
Ease of Use
Ease of use is important if you oversee a construction team. You never know who will be tasked with responding in an emergency, and there’s an excellent chance that the responsibility might fall into the hands of someone with little to no first aid or life support training.
The good news is that most AEDs are designed to be intuitive and easy to use. While you should probably avoid a model specifically tailored to the needs of emergency professionals (like the ZOLL AED Pro or the Defibtech Lifeline ECG, for instance), you should be safe with almost any other ZOLL, Defibtech, Philips, Physio-Control, Cardiac Science, or HeartSine model on the consumer market.
You just need a trusted device that’s equipped with audible step-by-step voice coaching and easy-to-place pads (each pad should contain a clear placement diagram). If you’re looking for maximum peace of mind, you might also invest in a fully automatic model that delivers any necessary shocks without user intervention. The following models are available in fully automatic (as well as semi-automatic) configurations:
An Excellent IP Rating
The construction site is a classic example of a rugged work environment, and so it demands a rugged AED. For starters, your device must be protected against penetration from moisture, dust, and solid objects. Developed by the International Electrotechnical Commission, the Ingress Protection rating (or IP rating) is an internally accepted standard that measures precisely these types of protection.
The IP rating contains two digits. The first digit (ranging from 0 to 6) refers to the amount of protection from dust and solid objects. The second digit (ranging from 0 to 9) refers to the level of protection against liquids. Higher numbers mean greater protection.
Every FDA-approved AED has an IP rating. Most devices are rated between IP54 to IP56. IP56 is currently the highest rating you’ll find with a portable defibrillator, and in a harsh environment like a construction or work site, we recommend choosing a device that meets this unparalleled standard.
Currently, three popular AEDs have a rating of IP56:
IP56 means that the device offers some protection against dust ingress as well as protection against powerful water jets.
If you’d like to compare AEDs from other brands as well, the following models are rated a still-impressive IP55 (protection against dust ingress and water jets):
If your construction work requires you to keep the AED outdoors, bear in mind that the operating temperature, storage temperature, and relative humidity tolerance of your device should be able to accommodate the conditions where you operate. These requirements may be very different for a contractor in Phoenix, Arizona, than they would be for a contractor in Helena, Montana.
Most conventional AEDs have an operating temperature range of 32 °F to 122 °F (0 ºC to 50 ºC). This is suitable for most climates, but if you operate in an especially hot or cold environment, you’ll want to invest in a really good outdoor cabinet or case.
A Long-Lasting Battery
Teams and contractors can spend weeks or months on construction sites, so a long-lasting battery is paramount.
Most AEDs require battery replacement every two years, and those expiration dates can sneak up on you at the most inopportune moments. The less frequently you have to replace, the less you have to worry. The following AEDs have some of the longest-lasting batteries in the industry:
- HeartSine 350P/360P/450P — The HeartSine Pad-Pak includes a battery and electrodes in one. You only have one expiration date to track, and it’s good for 4 years.
- ZOLL AED Plus/Pro—The lithium batteries and CPR-d-padz are good for 5 years.
- ZOLL AED 3—The Uni-padz are good for a full 5 years.
You should always keep a spare battery and extra electrode pads on hand in case of an emergency.
A Long-Lasting Warranty
Construction site AEDs can take a lot of abuse: from the weather, from physical objects, and just from being tossed around. To ensure the minimum cost of ownership and the maximum return on your investment, choose a device with a long warranty period.
While the warranty won’t cover negligence or general wear and tear, it can serve as a lifeline if your device is unable to live up to the manufacturer’s specified operating capabilities.
The following automated external defibrillators are all warrantied for 8 years:
- Cardiac Science Powerheart G5
- HeartSine Samaritan PAD 350P
- HeartSine Samaritan PAD 360P
- HeartSine Samaritan PAD 450P
- LIFEPAK CR2
- Philips HeartStart OnSite
- Philips HeartStart FRx
The Department of the Army Technical Bulletin (TB MED 7) lists 8 years as the general life expectancy of a defibrillator (p. B-6). So by opting for a model with an 8-year warranty, you can help to ensure that your AED never dies before its time.
The Best AED for Contractors and Construction Teams
Given the parameters outlined above, we recommend the cost-effective HeartSine Samaritan PAD 350P and the HeartSine Samaritan PAD 450P for construction teams and contractors. Not only are they two of the lightest AEDs on the market (weighing just 2.4 pounds) but they offer some excellent features for the construction industry:
- MIL-STD 810F (military-grade) shock and drop resistance
- IP56 certification for water and dust resistance
- An operating temperature of 32 °F to 122 °F
- 5% to 95% relative humidity tolerance
- A 4-year pad and battery cartridge (twice the lifespan of your average AED battery)
- An industry-leading 8-year warranty
- Easy-to-follow voice and visual coaching through every step of CPR and defibrillation
- Simple two-button operation; anyone can use these AEDs confidently
- SCOPE biphasic technology that optimizes treatment according to the patient’s heart rhythm
The main difference between the 350P and the 450P is that the 450P is upgraded with real-time CPR rate feedback. For maximum assurance and ease of use, you can’t go wrong with the 450P.
Ensure Full Peace of Mind With an AED
No matter what type of AED you purchase, the important thing is that you invest in one of these life-saving devices and ensure you have readily available AEDs on all of your construction sites.
Hopefully, you’ll never need to use it, but if you do, you’ll be glad it’s there. Prepare now and make sure you’re never caught without a defibrillator when you need it.