Any employee in any workplace environment is susceptible to physical injuries and medical emergencies. Workplace injuries can range from minor cuts or abrasions, to gruesome lacerations, gashes, and severe burns. Medical emergencies, such as heart attacks, can strike unexpectedly. Regardless of the type of injury or emergency, it is crucial for employers to provide sufficient first-aid equipment for their employees. In the event of a physical injury or medical emergency, all employees should be trained on the appropriate first aid equipment. However, it can be quite confusing on what exactly employers are required to provide. Know the laws, and make sure your workplace is prepared.
What are the standards?
The standards for first aid kits in the workplace can be challenging to pin down. Essentially, OSHA has mandated requirements that extend to every company. However, there may be state-specific standards in addition to the federal guidelines. For example, Automated Electronic Defibrillator (AED) laws vary from state to state. Additionally, the American National Standard (ANSI) recently released a new standard for first aid kits. However, OSHA still cites a first aid requirement list from ANSI that dates to 1998. This list contains minimal required supplies. These supplies include various items such gauze pads, bandages, scissors, tweezers, and other basic medical equipment. This type of kit will serve a small workforce adequately: OSHA recommends about 3 to 4 people. Additionally, according to this guideline all additional supplies are left to the discretion of the employer. However, it is expected that employers will provide enough first aid supplies for more employees, or multiple worksites.
So, what standards should be followed? The new 2015 ANSI ruling that is not cited on the OSHA website, or the actual citation still listed for first-aid requirements?
What is the difference between the requirements?
Before deciding which standard to follow we should assess the differences between the standards themselves. The ANSI list from 1998 is not nearly as extensive as the standards introduced in 2015. The list from 1998 includes only rudimentary supplies in its required list. The new 2015 standard has been expanded to account for more types of injuries, as well as outside forces that could hinder appropriate first aid. The ANSI 2015 standard separates first aid kits into two classes: A and B. Class A kits are for lesser injuries: minor cuts, scrapes, and burns. Class B, on the other hand, is reserved for work environments where more serious injuries may occur. Thus, class B kits have more supplies, and a broader range of supplies.
The 2015 standard also classifies first aid kits as type I, II, III, or IV. The kits are given a type that describes that specific kits characteristics. For example, type I kits are made for indoor worksites. They are made to be mounted on a wall, and not to be portable. Type II kits are also made for indoor use, where weather and natural elements cannot damage them. Unlike type I, these kits are portable and often have a handle affixed. Type III kits are more of a ‘hybrid’ kit. They have a water resistant seal, and are portable. However, they are not to be fully exposed to outdoor elements. Type IV are the most durable kits. These have high resistance to weather damage, and can be used outdoors.
What steps should you take?
The new ANSI standards are much more extensive than the 1998 guideline cited by OSHA. Some states in the US do cite the new 2015 ANSI ruling as the expectation. Thus, an OSHA inspection could lead to fines and repercussions if the new standards are not met. Employers need to find out which standard is the expectation for their specific state. If the new ANSI standard is required, then purchasing new materials to replenish existing kits, or buying new kits altogether should be done immediately.
Remember, although some states may only require the 1998 standard, there is potential for lives to be saved by upgrading first aid kits. The minimal cost required for upgrading your current emergency supplies pales in comparison to the benefits they may provide in an emergency.
Update your first aid kits today. Lives may depend on it.