First Aid Basics in the Office

How to be prepared for medical emergencies.

First aid in office, wellness, company culture

Being prepared for medical emergencies is an important part of your business's safety program. Whether you have two employees or more than 50, all workplaces must meet the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) standards for first aid.

Jary D. Winstead, occupational safety consultant and the owner of Work Safety Services, provides advice on the basics required for first aid in your workplace.

Medical Services and First Aid

Employers are required to assess the workplace for the types of injuries that can be reasonably expected to occur and then determine whether medical services are in close proximity (three to four minutes) to the office and would be able to treat employees for those types of injuries. When deciding whether medical services are in close proximity, an employer must consider the hours of operation and response time. OSHA does take into account workplaces, such as offices, where the risk of serious injuries is minimal. In such cases, OSHA says up to 15 minutes from medical services is acceptable.

When a workplace is found to be too far from medical services, the employer must have someone on staff who is adequately trained to render first aid. First aid training can be attained through the American Red Cross, Medic First Aid, American Heart Association and other recognized providers.

First Aid Kits

OSHA requires first aid supplies to be readily available. When larger operations or multiple operations are being conducted at the same location, employers should determine the need for additional first aid kits and supplies.

OSHA cites the American National Standards Institute for recommended minimum first aid kit requirements. 

Here are the minimum requirements for a 10-person, ANSI Class A first aid kit (designed for the most common workplace injuries):

  • 16 adhesive bandages, 1 x 3"
  • 1 adhesive tape, 2.5 yds.
  • 10 antibiotic treatment applications, 1/57 oz.
  • 10 antiseptic applications, 1/57 oz.
  • 1 breathing barrier
  • 1 burn dressing, gel soaked, 4 x 4”
  • 10 burn treatment, 1/32 oz.
  • 1 cold pack
  • 2 eye covering
  • 1 eye wash, 1 oz.
  • 1 first aid guide
  • 6 hand sanitizer, 1/32 oz. 
  • 2 pair exam gloves
  • 1 roller bandage, 2” x 4 yds
  • 1 scissors
  • 2 sterile pad, 3" x 3"
  • 2 trauma pad, 5” x 9”
  • 1 triangular bandage, 40" x 40" x 56"

First aid kits must be properly maintained, accessible to all employees and stored in locations where they will not be damaged. Although employers are not required to provide medications by OSHA, over-the-counter medicine can be put in first aid kits if packaged in single-dose, tamper-evident packaging and labeled as required by FDA regulations. Over-the-counter drug products should not contain ingredients known to cause drowsiness. Also, make sure to regularly check expiration dates on medications and replace them as necessary.

It's also important to consider the risks related to employees having allergic and/or adverse reactions to medications, before making such medications available.

Personal Protective Equipment

If it's reasonably anticipated that employees will be exposed to blood or other potentially infectious materials (OPIM) while using first aid supplies, employers are required to provide appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). PPE must be provided at no charge, be available at the location of the first aid kit and include at least the following:

  • Disposable latex gloves
  • Safety glasses or face shield
  • Face mask
  • CPR barrier

Emergency Eye Wash and Emergency Shower

According to OSHA, “Where the eyes or body of any person may be exposed to injurious corrosive materials, suitable facilities for quick drenching or flushing of the eyes and body shall be provided within the work area for immediate emergency use.”

For locations that require an eye wash station or emergency shower, facilities must be properly maintained, flushed regularly, unobstructed by doors, within a 10-second walking distance and accessible to all employees who in some way work with or near corrosive materials. Easy-to-use eye wash bottles are also available for your first aid kits.

Emergency Medical Plan

As part of the workplace's emergency action plan, an emergency medical plan is essential. This plan must be posted in a location where it's visible to employees in the event of a medical emergency. The plan should include the following:

  • Address of the workplace
  • Phone number of the workplace
  • Location of the first aid kits
  • Location of emergency eye wash or emergency shower
  • Names of those people trained to render first aid
  • Emergency services phone number
  • List of medical services located in close proximity to the workplace (minimum of three), including their:
    • Phone numbers
    • Address and directions
    • Hours of service

All personnel should be trained on the emergency medical plan upon hire and at least annually thereafter. For more information, refer to the OSHA website.

This article provides general information and is not intended to provide personalized legal or medical advice; please consult with your own advisor and review local/state/federal regulatory guidelines and requirements if you have any questions.

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