Overview: An employer can take steps to prevent a tragedy from occurring in the workplace. For example, it can use the safest equipment and offer employees working in dangerous areas the best personal protective equipment available. Some tragedies, though, may be entirely outside of the employer's control. This can be the case with medical emergencies, such as an employee heart attack, stroke or seizure in the workplace. There are things that the employer can do, though, that may help reduce the occurrence of these medical emergencies, as well as minimize their damage when they do occur.
One of the best ways to prevent a medical emergency is to promote healthful lifestyles. While employers cannot force employees to live healthful lives, they can offer many incentives to both educate employees on how to be healthy and help make it easier for them to accomplish health goals. For example, offering a Wellness Program might be a way to prevent some medical emergencies.
An employer should also be prepared to handle a medical emergency that arises in the workplace. Taking action before professional medical help arrives may be crucial. Having AEDs and training employees in basic life-saving techniques, such as CPR and the Heimlich maneuver, can help prevent the worst from happening.
Trends: Most states have a Good Samaritan law, which protects employers and employees from liability for an injury that occurs while rendering free emergency medical care, so long as the care was not negligent or intentionally harmful.
Author: Melissa Gonzalez Boyce, JD, Legal Editor
Updated to include forthcoming amendments regarding electronic cigarettes.
Updated to reflect amended OSHA electronic reporting requirements as a result of its final rule, issued January 24, 2019.
Updated to include information on a case involving the medical marijuana law.
Updated to reflect the Utah Medical Cannabis Act, effective December 3, 2018.
Updated to reflect eligibility for medical marijuana use based on obstructive sleep apnea or autism, effective August 1, 2018.
Updated to reflect a decrease in the minimum standard permitted for alcohol testing, effective July 1, 2018.
Updated to reflect an amendment regarding claims involving mental impairment, effective July 1, 2018.
Updated to reflect an amendment relating to the smoking of marijuana in the workplace, effective July 31, 2017.
Updated to reflect amendments to the workers' compensation law, effective June 16, 2017.
HR guidance on preventing and responding to workplace medical emergencies.