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Safety Zone: FIRST Aid Kits! OHSA/ANSI… How Do We Sort Through It All?
How do we sort through it all? A first aid kit may seem simple, but once the government gets involved, it becomes more involved. If approached correctly, a first aid kit and offering first aid can remain reasonably straight forward, but one should approach it with understanding. The cost can be kept reasonable.
By Gabriel Curry
Date Posted: 4/1/2011
Sometimes it is the little things you forget that can get you in trouble when an accident occurs or the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) comes for a visit. One place that can get overlooked is the basic first aid kit. Every workplace should have first aid supplies to handle the scrapes and splinters that are the natural result of getting work done.
Are you with me so far? Good, because this simple statement is a lot more complex than it looks. It encompasses a wide array of assumptions in these modern times, and there is a price to pay for not adequately assessing those assumptions.
A first aid kit naturally should anticipate minor injuries out of concern for the welfare of our workers. Employers must also consider the possibility of blood-borne pathogens and offer protection for any coworker administering the first aid to the injured party. In other words, when somebody starts bleeding, people are concerned that they may contract a deadly virus by direct exposure to the blood, so the first aid kit needs to contain gloves and things to avoid transmission of dreaded diseases.
Add to this the vague fear that there will be OSHA penalties or lawsuits if we don’t provide just the right sort of first aid supplies. You can now begin to see the complexity hidden in the simple premise of providing first aid.
It just so happens that there are companies out there who are happy to subcontract the pesky details of first aid and handle it for you. They will visit your place of business regularly and keep you supplied with the stuff your company needs. This solves the problem, but at what price? I’ve heard stories of mid-sized companies spending upwards of $4,000 per year on a well-stocked first aid cabinet by utilizing this type of service. Does it have to cost that much to supply your workforce with basic first aid materials?
I don’t think so.
For some companies, it makes sense to use a full-service provider, but I believe many companies can do the job in-house and save a lot of money if they only know the facts.
And the facts are pretty clear cut. If you are the least bit attentive to the ordinary first aid needs of your workforce, and take care to obtain your supplies in an ANSI compliant format, and establish a mechanism to reorder supplies as they are consumed, you will never be molested with an OSHA violation over your first aid kit.
If your workplace is in California or any other state with an aggressive in-state OSHA-style agency, you should check with the appropriate state authorities to make sure they do not have any additional requirements such as a letter on file from a consulting physician approving the supplies you use.
Allow me to take a moment to detail the way the federal government goes about making sure the workplace is safe. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) is a private entity that encodes standards for products, services, processes, systems, and personnel in the United States. OSHA is a federal agency that has enforcement powers and often uses the ANSI standards as the basis for its regulations. ANSI has prescribed minimum performance requirements for first aid kits in its standard Z308.1, which was last revised in 2009.
According to the ANSI standard, first aid kits should contain individually wrapped single-use packets using a color-coded labeling system denoting whether the item is an antiseptic, burn treatment, bandage, etc. Additionally, these supplies must be located inside a box or cabinet that is labeled for the purpose.
A basic refill kit that conforms to this standard will include assorted bandages, antiseptic towelettes, burn and antibiotic topical packets, tape, latex gloves and a first aid handbook. A pallet facility would want to supplement these items with targeted products like splinter-removal packs, but they would be more for the comfort of your staff than to satisfy OSHA.
My company, HUB Industrial Supply, sells a 50-pc. refill box of the ANSI specified items for just $17.00, and the Splinter-Out kit is only $3.90 compared to others’ price of $6.30, so you can see how economical it can be to do it yourself.
Incidentally, my staff has been studying statistics of OSHA inspections in the pallet industry. I expect to share the results of our research in future columns. As it pertains to first aid kits, I can report that a random survey of actual violations in pallet facilities in the last few years turned up no examples of first aid kit problems outside of the state of California.
I wish I could say the same thing for PPE… but that’s another column. If you have a story to tell about an OSHA inspection your company has experienced, I’d like to hear it.
Editor’s Note: Gabriel Curry is President of Hub Industrial Supply. He can be reached by email at Gabriel@hubindustrial.com
or by phone 800-743-9401 or visit www.hubindustrial.com.