Workplace First Aid Kits: What to Include & How to Manage

By Randy Clayton on Mar 18, 2020
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According to the National Safety Council, another worker is injured every seven seconds. That's 510 worker injuries per hour or 4.6 million injuries per year. While some of these injuries require evaluation and treatment by a physician, many will require first aid - either as the initial intervention or the only intervention. 

What Constitutes First Aid?

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) defines reportable injuries based on whether treatment "beyond first aid" was required. First aid, in this case, is defined as immediate, one-time treatment for minor injuries. Examples of first aid as outlined by OSHA include:

  • the application of dressings or bandages
  • the use of non-prescription medications like acetaminophen
  • clean scratches, scrapes, or cuts
  • rinsing debris out of the eyes
  • increasing fluid intake
  • applying ice or heat

If technology, prescription drugs, or a medical professional are involved, it's generally no longer considered first aid.

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OSHA Requirements for First Aid Kits

OSHA requires employers to have first aid kits on hand that contain the supplies necessary to address the kinds of hazards that are most common in the workplace. OSHA does not govern which supplies should be included, although they support the guidelines established by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).

Stocking Your First Aid Kit: What to Include

ANSI recommendations, outlined in detail in this article, are OSHA-recommended, organized, and easy to implement. Items to include will depend on whether your organization is in a low-risk (finance or education, for example) or high-risk (manufacturing or oil & gas, for example) industry. As a general guide, include the following: adhesive bandages, adhesive tape, antibiotic ointment, antiseptic, breathing barrier, burn cream and dressings, cold packs, eye and skin wash, hand sanitizer, gloves, roller bandages, scissors, splints, sterile pads, tourniquets, trauma pads, and triangular bandages. It's also important to include a first aide guide to walk staff through basic first aid.

Where to Keep It

OSHA mandates that first aid kits are readily available and easily accessible, a guideline that requires careful interpretation at the organizational level. If all staff work in a single building, then leaders are tasked with determining the most accessible location or locations throughout the building. In many cases, more than one first aid kit is needed in order to meet the requirement of "readily available." An organization with multiple locations must have a first aid kit on site at each location, and more than one if the space or layout requires it. 

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How to Maintain It

A common mistake organizations make is buying ANSI-compliant first aid kits in an effort to meet OSHA requirements and then failing to replenish supplies as they're used. Organizations should establish procedures that include:

  • frequent assessment and replenishing of first aid kits
  • assessment and replenishing after a multiple-injury incident
  • a detailed notification process to ensure employees who use supplies can communicate that they've been used

What Staff Should Know

Your employees must know where first aid kits are located, how to administer basic first aid, and when first aid is appropriate. Periodic training is important in ensuring that staff maintain this knowledge despite infrequent practice.

Staying abreast of OSHA requirements and ANSI recommendations can be challenging for leaders who are also working to comply with industry-specific governing bodies. Partnering with a professional employer organization, or PEO, can help you mitigate risk.

Written by Randy Clayton

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