New Connecticut AED Law Requires Health Clubs to Have an AED
According to the Red Cross, “Sudden Cardiac Arrest is among the leading causes of death in the United States. In fact, more than 350,000 people will suffer a cardiac arrest this year. Currently, the only way to restore a regular heart rhythm during cardiac arrest is to use an AED.” And even more concerning is the fact that athletes are estimated to be up to three times more likely to suffer Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) than non-athletes. This statistical reality is the reason behind Connecticut’s new law which requires all health clubs and gyms to have an AED available and in working condition on their premises. Given the risk of SCA during exercise, facilities and organizations like gyms, health clubs, and athletic teams have a responsibility to protect the lives of their patrons and participants.
Connecticut’s new law, SB1083, came into effect on October 1, 2021. Specifically, SB1083 requires all health clubs to provide and maintain a working AED in a readily accessible location as a precondition to its license to operate or the renewal of any such licenses. In addition, it also requires that the AED location be known to all employees of the health club, and that at all times during its hours of operation there be at least one employee who is trained in CPR and use of an AED. The AED must be maintained and tested according to its manufacturer’s guidelines, and the health club must promptly notify local emergency services after every use. Since operation licenses for health clubs in Connecticut must be renewed every year, the State intends for AED availability to become the norm for all health clubs within a year.
In exchange for these licensing prerequisites, SB1083 grants a high degree of immunity from civil liability to any person or entity that provides or maintains an AED, such that neither the entity nor individuals will be held liable for the use or non-use of the AED. In other words, SB1083 has now opened the door for other patrons and individuals to be able to use the AED without subjecting the health club to civil liability, and will also protect the health club when the AED is not used. This novel way to limit civil liability is meant to serve as motivation for health clubs to make AEDs available, train at least some of their employees in its use, and permit patrons to render assistance when necessary. So despite requiring at least one employee trained in AED use to be present at the health club during its hours of operation, SB1083 offers a dramatic shift from previous requirements that all employees be trained in CPR/AED use in order to grant immunity. Doubtless this is a change in the right direction and an acknowledgement of the higher risk of SCA while exercising.
To some of us it may come as a surprise that regular exercise can increase the risk of SCA rather than decrease it, but as with everything in life the outcome depends on many variables such as the type of physical activity you are engaging in, the length and level of such activity, and your unique conditions. So instead of focusing on the risk, we need to focus on the solution: and that means having tools such as AEDs available where you are likely to need them. This new law in Connecticut is therefore a recognition of these risks and reflects a desire to mitigate them as much as possible. A commendable effort by the legislature and an example to be followed by other states.