Rethinking the Office First Aid Kit

Turn an underused resource into a real help

Workplace wellness

Minor ailments can totally derail an office worker's productivity. Little things just make it harder to focus: Maybe it's a headache caused by staring at a computer screen all day, or indigestion from lunch, or a blister caused by new shoes. Regardless, one solution is to have an office first-aid kit that is well-stocked with items to relieve these problems.

But if you're like most offices, your kit is a dusty box with some old gauze and maybe a few bandages inside. Why not make it a better resource for your colleagues? Here's how:

Cover Your Bases

First, make sure your kit can help with serious injuries. Check the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's requirements on first-aid resources for your industry, and look into any state regulations that may apply as well.

As the Society for Human Resource Management notes, many employers meet guidelines by using the American National Standards Institute's list of basic first-aid kit supplies. For example, a partial list includes:

  • An absorbent compress
  • Adhesive bandages of various sizes
  • Antibiotic treatment
  • Antiseptic treatment
  • Burn treatment
  • Sterile pads
  • Medical-exam gloves

Double-check to ensure you have any required items on hand — once you're all set, you can add useful extras to the kit.

Over-the-Counter Medications

These items can keep your coworkers from spending the workday suffering under a headache or some other minor issue — or interrupting their day to head to the pharmacy. Some ideas for what to stock:

  • Painkillers such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen
  • Digestive aids such as Pepto Bismol and antacids
  • Non-drowsy cough and cold medications, plus cough drops
  • Calamine lotion
  • Aloe vera
  • Hydrocortisone
  • Sterile eye drops

Note: Buy single-use packaging for medications to prevent spillage and contamination.

Items for the Unexpected

Aside from the usual medications that everyone needs from time to time, you might stock up on a few items specifically for less-common scenarios, some of which may not even be medically related. If the power goes out, for instance, the first-aid kit is a good spot to keep the flashlight. Think of the kit as your all-purpose emergency center.

Here are a few items for unexpected situations:

  • Scissors or tweezers
  • Thermometer
  • Cold pack
  • Sealable plastic bags
  • Cotton balls
  • Duct tape
  • Flashlight with fresh batteries

Pack It Up and Keep It Handy

To ensure your colleagues make use of your new office first-aid kit, make sure you have a plastic box big enough to neatly store all your items. Mark it clearly with a white or red cross, and place it prominently in a well-used supply closet. It's also smart to affix a note about the rules for usage — for example, let coworkers know they should take only what they need. If something is not available, they should inform you so you can stock it in the future.

When you go about your regular office supply restocking routine, check the kit to make sure medication is all up to date. Double-check the contents at least once every six months; co-workers might use items and forget to tell you.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so stop by your local pharmacy and begin picking up the basics. Your coworkers will thank you!