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Should fitness clubs install defibrillators?

Should fitness clubs install defibrillators?
August 26, 2015

A variety of recent initiatives that are seeing automated external defibrillators (AEDs) installed in an increasing range of leisure settings has brought into focus the issue as to whether all fitness clubs in Australia and New Zealand should install lifesaving defibrillators.

Currently the Victorian Government is backing the supply of 1,000 AEDs to sports clubs across Victoria while former SBS sport presenter Andy Paschalidis is campaiging for Federal Government backing for defibrillators to be at every sporting field in the country.

In New Zealand, all of Auckland Council aquatic centres and each CityFitness gym is equipped with a defibrillator while in the USA, more than 10 states require that fitness facilities have at least one AED on-site, along with trained staff.

The need for defibrillators is all-too-often enforced when the life saving equipment is not available at a facility or event and someone dies as a result of sudden cardiac arrest (SCA, commonly known as a 'heart attack'). Waiting for paramedics to arrive to attend to a heart-attack victim will dramatically reduce their 5% survival rate.

Equally, their value is confirmed when someone is resuscitated by an AED - as happened last year at the Crossfit121 gym in the Melbourne suburb of Cheltenham when a 32-year-old mother suffered a sudden cardiac arrest during exercise.

In fitness facilities, where exercisers' heart rates are boosted, so is the risk of cardiac arrest.

Australian Defribrillators Managing Director Paul Jones explains "despite their goal of improving health and fitness among the population, the unfortunate reality for fitness facilities is that their members may intentionally push themselves over the limits of physical exertion on a regular basis. "Because a cardiac arrest rarely displays any warning signs, it can effect everyone no matter how fit therefore no one is truly safe from this incredible danger."

Cardiac arrest is the number one single killer in Australia, causing more than 33,000 deaths each year and Jones believes people working out at a health club are at a greater risk of sudden cardiac arrest during and shortly after vigorous exercise.

He adds "SCA can strike anyone, anywhere, at any time, and in most cases, without warning or previous symptoms."

The Australian Fitness Industry Risk Management (AFIRM) project, which was established in 2012 to explore the operation of rules and regulations in Australia for the delivery of safe fitness services, highlights that "being prepared for medical emergencies is crucial in reducing risk and potential liability" and that "there is both a professional and legal need to have medical emergency plans in place."

AFIRM, which is funded by an Australian Research Council Linkage Grant  and backed by research partners Fitness Australia and Sports Medicine Australia, suggest that types of medical emergencies include:

• Health risks such as medical conditions which lead to cardiac arrest for example, and
• Injury risks such as situations or conditions which lead to back injuries, bone fractures, tissue damage etc.

AFIRM add that "fitness business and professionals have a legal obligation to plan for and provide appropriate emergency care when these situations occur.

A well thought out, documented, medical emergency action plan (EAP) that considers all legally foreseeable medical emergencies and is well communicated to facility personnel, is critically important to managing risk."

Paul Jones believes that "a health club’s emergency response program should include a defibrillation plan using an AED as protection for their members and guests (as) without treatment at the scene by club staff, the victim may have only minutes to live.

"With quick response by gym staff using an AED can increase survival rates to well over 50%.

"(As) the only definitive proven treatment for SCA is defibrillation, with well-trained staff, fitness facilities with AEDs can respond extremely quickly to victims of sudden cardiac arrest."

In spite of this, many facilities are concerned about installing defibrillators, for fears of cost, liability and/or the ongoing need to train staff.

However, as Jones concludes "imagine the effect on your club and members if you lost someone in the gym to SCA and then imagine the feeling if you saved someone.

"As a result, a defibrillator should be part every health club’s equipment."

AFIRM advice on Automated external defibrillators (AEDs)
Scientific evidence shows an increased survival rate for individuals who receive electrical defibrillation in the first few minutes of a sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). Automated External defibrillator (AED) training is now common during first-aid/CPR training.

There are no laws in Australia requiring fitness centres to install AEDs. However, several international and professional organisations have ‘strongly encouraged’ larger centres to install AEDs. AED placement in a fitness centre is particularly important if the clientele are older or have a ‘high-risk’ profile, for example, clients with cardiovascular or respiratory disease.

In health/fitness facilities, where staff members have been recruited to use an AED, managers must ensure that their staff have received adequate training from accredited education providers in order to show good practice in case of an emergency situation.

For more information, go to www.fitnessriskmanagement.com.au/environment/emergencies/

Main image of a defibrillator in use at Fitness First is used for illustrative purposes only.

19th August 2015 - PASCHALIDIS LEADS CAMPAIGN TO HAVE DEFIBRILLATORS AT EVERY SPORTING FIELD IN AUSTRALIA

20th July 2015 - DONATION SEES DEFIBRILLATORS INSTALLED AT LOCAL PARKS IN PARRAMATTA

1st June 2015 - DEFIBRILLATORS TO HELP VICTORIAN SPORTS CLUBS SAVE LIVES

3rd September 2014 - CROSSFIT121 GYM STAFF USE DEFIBRILLATOR TO SAVE MELBOURNE WOMAN’S LIFE 

15th August 2014 - DEFIBRILLATORS INSTALLED IN ALL CITYFITNESS CLUBS

13th August 2014 - CITY2SURF FATALITY PROMPTS CALLS FOR DEFIBRILLATORS AT SPORTS EVENTS

10th September 2013 - NEW ZEALAND FACILITIES TAKE A LEAD ON DEFIBRILLATORS


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