Strokes in the Workplace: Recognizing and Responding

In the United States, stroke is the fourth leading cause of death, killing over 133,000 people each year, and a leading cause of serious, long-term adult disability. –Stroke 101 Fact Sheet, National Stroke Association

When a co-worker is suffering a stroke, time is of the essence. Every minute during a stroke, two million brain cells die – increasing the risk of permanent brain damage, disability, or even death.

Signs of a Stroke

The Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation list the following symptoms as signs that a stroke may be occurring:

Weakness – Sudden loss of strength or sudden numbness in the face, arm, or leg, even if temporary.

Trouble Speaking – Sudden difficulty speaking or understanding or sudden confusion, even if temporary.

Vision Problems – Sudden trouble with vision, even if temporary.

Headache – Sudden severe and unusual headache.

Dizziness – Sudden loss of balance, especially with any of the above signs.

Both the United States National Stroke Association and the UK Stroke Association recommend using the FAST system to recognize strokes:

F – Face | Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?

A – Arms | Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downwards?

S – Speech | Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Does the speech sound slurred or strange?

T – Time | If you observe any of these signs (independently or together, call 9-1-1 (USA & Canada) or 9-9-9 (UK) immediately.

Responding to a Stroke

If you recognize that you or a coworker is suffering from a stroke, it is important to contact 9-1-1 or your local emergency number immediately. Do not drive yourself or your co-worker to a hospital. Doing so can lose precious minutes of time due to various factors including traffic or arriving at a hospital that is unprepared to receive and assist with a new stroke patient. By taking an ambulance, the sufferer of the stroke will be taken to the nearest, and most prepared hospital and time will be saved by avoiding the initial hospital check-in that might be performed if you arrive at the hospital through the front door.

Strokes at Work

A stroke can be especially devastating when it happens to an employee who is working alone or in isolation. Because every minute counts, any unnecessary delays in contacting emergency personnel can be fatal. For instance, if an employee is working away from others and suffers a stroke, his or her next phone check-in may not occur for another hour. That is an entire hour before anyone knows that he or she is suffering from a stroke. With such large delays, the risk of permanent damage and disability increases significantly.

To reduce this risk, consider deploying a lone worker safety monitoring device. If a worker realizes that he or she is suffering from a stroke, they need only to pull an easy-to use emergency latch to request immediate help. If the employee is unable to request help, automated alerting features can also notify management for a prompt response.

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