What are AEDs and Why Do They Matter?

An automated external defibrillator is a lifesaving tool meant to help people who are facing unexpected cardiac arrest. It analyzes a person’s heart rhythm and then, if necessary, will deliver an electric shock. This can jolt a person’s system and restore their heart’s steady and effective rhythm.

AEDs are designed for easy use so that someone without medical expertise can use one on another person without major risk of worsening their situation. However, a business that invests in AEDs typically needs to train some or all of its employees on how to use them. 

The Red Cross offers classes for CPR/AED certification both in person and online. This training greatly increases the chances that a person can successfully perform CPR and use an AED. As a result, this increases the likelihood that someone experiencing cardiac arrest will survive long enough for professional medical help to arrive. 

Using an AED

It is preferable that a person using an AED be trained in its use. Any business equipped with an AED should have trained people available. If you lack this training but are near an AED, call out to see if anyone in your area is trained in CPR or AED use before attempting to use one. 

The Red Cross recommends the following steps when using an AED:

  • Check the individual you believe to be experiencing cardiac arrest and the surrounding area to form an initial impression of the scene, including checking if the individual is breathing, bleeding or has any life-threatening conditions.

  • Call 911 if the individual doesn’t respond and isn’t breathing or is only gasping. Alternatively, point at someone nearby and firmly tell them to call 911. Alert the operator to the situation and your current location.

  • Remove the individual’s clothing and jewelry covering the chest to make sure the shock can be applied correctly. The pads must be attached to bare skin. Note that metal can seriously affect the way in which the shock is applied. Jewelry and some bras contain conductive metals. 

  • Attach the AED’s pads. One pad must be on the upper right of the chest, the other on the lower left side of the chest. If the individual is small and the pads could potentially touch, put one pad in the center of the chest and the other between the shoulder blades on the individual’s back. 

  • Plug the pad connector cables into the AED if they are not already attached.

  • Allow the AED to analyze the heart’s rhythm, making sure nobody is touching the individual. Shout “Clear!”

  • Administer the shock if the AED deems it appropriate, again making sure nobody is touching the individual and that you shout “Clear!” before pushing the shock button.

  • After the shock or if no shock is directed, start CPR. If you don’t know how to perform CPR or aren’t confident in your abilities, loudly ask if anyone nearby is trained in CPR and can administer it to the individual. 

Although the above steps are based on advice from the Red Cross, you should not view this article as a replacement for medical or legal advice. It is only meant to review the basics of AEDs. AEDs are only considered appropriate for adults or nonbreathing children aged 8 years or older who weigh more than 55 pounds.

Example Use Case

Imagine a customer in a business falls down, seemingly going into cardiac arrest and clearly experiencing a medical emergency. With an AED available, a trained employee can quickly grab the device (ideally nearby) and rush to the customer’s aid.

Emergency services (911) should be called. If the customer is conscious, the emergency services should be informed what is happening and why these steps are being taken. It’s important to relay this information in real time.  

The customer’s shirt and anything else on their chest should be removed and the AED’s paddles placed appropriately. The AED will analyze the person’s heart and can be used to shock it back into rhythm if the device recommends this action. CPR should then be administered. 

This can potentially save the customer’s life. An AED’s value goes beyond the normal considerations made regarding a business.

Why AEDs Are Important

The Red Cross believes improved training and access to AEDs could save as many as 50,000 lives each year. It believes that all Americans should be within four minutes of an AED and someone trained to use it. Sudden cardiac arrest is among the leading causes of death in the United States, but an AED can restore a regular heart rhythm. 

An AED isn’t a hugely expensive device, and the training to use one is fairly straightforward. Some businesses are also legally required to have one as well as a set number of employees who know how to use it. Whether having one is a legal necessity or not, most would argue that if an AED (and employees trained in its use) can save even one life, the device was well worth it.

Healthy and Safety Services for Your Business

An AED is a lifesaving device. You’ll hopefully never need it, but it can be the difference between life and death when it matters. Local regulations often require a business to have at least one available. Businesses should be properly equipped with at least one AED, especially if they deal with hazards that can affect the heart. 

At Alsco, we can equip your business with health and safety supplies, including AEDs. Our health and safety services can outfit your business with various products that help make your employees and customers safer, including first aid kits, personal protective equipment, flame-resistant uniforms and more. Contact us today to learn more about how Alsco can help. 


What is AED? The American Red Cross.

AED Steps. The American Red Cross.

Adult CPR Steps. The American Red Cross.

CPR/AED Certification. The American Red Cross.

AEDs in the Workplace. Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

The Importance of AEDs in the Workplace. (March 2023). Laborers’ Health and Safety Fund of North America. 

Improving Workplace Safety Training Using a Self-Directed CPR-AED Learning Program. (April 2009). AAOHN Journal.

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