Emergency Preparedness and Response, Injuries and Illness, Personnel Safety, Regulatory Developments

First Aid Kits: Update Yours to Meet New Industry Standard

A first aid kit can be easy to ignore. It’s quiet, unobtrusive, and often hiding in plain sight. But it’s more likely to be used than you might think. There were 2.7 million workplace nonfatal injuries and illnesses reported by private industry employers in the U.S. in 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

A newly revised industry consensus standard for first aid kits takes effect this year on Oct. 15. You’re urged to review the contents of every first aid kit in your workplace now to ensure compliance with this standard.

About the standard

New standard: ANSI/ISEA Z308.1-2021, American National Standard for Minimum Requirements for Workplace First Aid Kits and Supplies.

Developed by the International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA) First Aid Product Group—and approved by key stakeholders representing construction groups, technology corporations, testing laboratories, utility companies, and others—the standard was processed and approved using consensus procedures prescribed by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).

The standard has been updated six times since it was first published in 1978. Each revision is meant to ensure that first aid kits contain the items needed to treat the most common types of injuries and sudden illnesses currently encountered in the workplace.

“An actual first aid kit is just one element of an employer’s safety culture” explained Todd VanHouten, Director of Product Development and Innovation at Cintas First Aid & Safety, and Chair of ISEA’s First Aid Product Group.

“While compliance with the standard is recommended, updating first aid stations, kits, and protocols goes beyond compliance,” VanHouten said. “The discussions and recommendations in this standard can help guide an organization’s overall first aid program, ultimately helping to provide proper and timely treatment for all employees.”

What changed

The latest standard keeps the kit classification established in 2015: Class A or Class B, based on workplace environment. In addition to designating classes and types of first aid kits, the new standard details the requirements for first aid supplies, as well as first aid kit marking and labeling. Several other key updates are outlined below:

A foil blanket is now mandatory. This change reflects similar international standards and recognizes the multiple purposes this item can serve. It can be used in treating hypothermia, act as a windbreaker, or be worn as an emergency waterproof wrap.

Types of tourniquets are clarified. The revised standard helps to distinguish tourniquets from those types of bands used to draw blood, which are not as effective in preventing blood loss, as is intended.

Bleeding control kits get greater guidance. The update provides additional details on designated bleeding control kits, which contain more advanced first aid supplies to immediately treat life-threatening external bleeding.

Workplace hazard assessment is emphasized. “Employers should conduct a thorough workplace hazard assessment to help them determine which supplies to augment,” advised VanHouten. The new standard offers a more robust discussion on this topic to help employers assess risks, identify potential hazards, and select additional first aid supplies that are relevant to a particular application or work environment.

Urgent reality check

VanHouten noted that every work environment is unique, so changes to any first aid kit should be made based on the specific hazards and injuries that could occur at a particular worksite.

That said, it’s important to jump on this now. While the new standard takes effect Oct. 15, 2022, there’s no reason to wait until then to bring your first aid kit into compliance. You—and your coworkers—need the best first aid kit possible in the event of an emergency.

The standard is available at ISEA’s First Aid Standard page or through licensed resellers.

Nicole Randall is the Director of Marketing and External Affairs for the International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA) in Arlington, Va., which is the trade association in the U.S. for personal protective equipment, products, and technologies.

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