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A Guide to Hands-Only CPR

It’s an employer’s worst nightmare: an employee experiences cardiac arrest in your workplace. Coworkers are shocked and stare at the still form of the stricken employee, wasting precious moments. Suddenly someone dashes forward to check for breathing and begins CPR. Another calls 911 for help.

This scenario is repeated more than 350,000 times each year, as that many cardiac arrests happen outside of hospitals annually, according to the American Heart Association. Are your employees prepared to save a coworker’s life? Are they confident in their ability to jump in and perform CPR? Do you have CPR-certified employees who know the proper techniques?

If the answer to any of these questions is “no,” now is the time to offer training to your employees as part of your safety program. Be sure to include the specifics of the OSHA regulations for your industry.

What is Hands-Only CPR?

While traditional CPR is still an option, hands-only CPR is easier, especially in situations where one person is providing the reinstating. Research has shown hands-only CPR is as effective—and possibly more effective—than conventional CPR. With hands-only CPR, a rescuer can respond more quickly.

The sooner CPR is administered, the greater the chance of survival. CPR doesn’t jumpstart a person’s heart. It keeps blood circulating until an automated external defibrillator can shock the heart into a normal rhythm. That’s why it’s important to continue the technique until help arrives.

Instructions for Hands-Only CPR:

  • Make sure the person is unresponsive by checking for breathing
  • Call 911 or ask someone else to do so; be specific about the location and stay on the line until the dispatcher tells you to hang up
  • Start chest compressions hard and fast in the center of the chest
  • Keep going until help arrives—first responders or an automated external defibrillator—or the victim begins breathing normally on their own

How to Perform Chest Compressions

Experts say that anyone can learn to do hands-only CPR in about 90 seconds. But with proper training and guidance, people feel more confident about performing CPR. Watch this American Heart Association video.

  • Place the heel of one hand on the center of the person's chest. Place the heel of your other hand on top of your first. Lace your fingers together.
  • Keep arms straight and your shoulders directly over your hands.
  • Push hard and fast, compressing the chest at least 2 inches.
  • Let the chest rise completely before pushing down again.
  • Compress at least 100 times per minute.
  • Listen to, sing or hum an appropriate song to help you maintain the right rhythm. Recommended songs include “Staying Alive,” “Dancing Queen,” “I Will Survive,” “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” and “Baby Shark.” Spotify has a playlist of songs that help guide CPR compressions.

Note that WebMD cautions that hands-only CPR shouldn’t be used on victims of drug overdose, near-drowning or an unwitnessed cardiac arrest. These cases require traditional CPR with breathing and chest compressions.

Contact the Red Cross to schedule an OSHA-compliant employee training session to certify or recertify employees in CPR.

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