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First Aid at Workplace: Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Red cross, green cross, or white cross - which is the correct symbol for first aid?

A.

A white cross on a green background is the official symbol for first aid. You will find most first aid signs at facilities following this official symbol. According to ISO 7010, “This safety sign should be used for first aid equipment or facilities or staff for which/whom there is no registered safety sign. A supplementary text sign shall be used to increase comprehension except when the safety sign is supplemented by manuals, instructions or training.”

A green cross on a white background is just a variation of this standard symbol but is not officially proposed by any government entity. Also, the red cross symbol, which is widely used as a first-aid symbol, is the official emblem of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies protected under the Geneva Conventions Act and cannot be used without permission.

Q. What are the legal requirements for first aid supplies at workplaces?

A.

All industries are required to comply with OSHA 29 CFR 1910.151, which states that “adequate first aid supplies shall be readily available”. 

Employers should assess the kinds of injuries that occur in their workplaces when deciding how much is an “adequate” quantity of materials in a first aid kit. For example - Offices are low-risk environments with lesser first aid requirements than a steel mill, which is a high-risk environment and would require more first aid supplies.

Other legal requirements by OSHA are - 

  • - Medical personnel are readily available for advice and consultation
  • - A person or persons on site are trained in first aid
  • - Facilities for emergency drenching or flushing of the eyes and body must be present within work areas where a worker’s eyes or body may be exposed to harmful corrosive materials.

Employers must evaluate all the possible work-related hazards and provide first aid accordingly. Although OSHA sets national standards, many states have their own OSHA equivalent laws concerning first aid too.

Q. Which kind of workplaces are required to have eyewash and an emergency shower facility?

A.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires eyewash and emergency showers for workers who work with or around corrosive chemicals or equipment that can contain corrosive chemicals in the workplace, such as:

  • - Anhydrous ammonia
  • - Open surface tanks
  • - Formaldehyde
  • - Forklifts and other powered industrial trucks
  • - Paper and pulp-making equipment
  • - Telecommunications batteries

Read on the OSHA site for more details.

Q. What should be the contents of a first aid kit?

A.

As such, the contents of a first aid kit have not been fixed by OSHA. The types and amounts of first aid supplies must be selected according to the possible hazards in the workplace. OSHA directs employers to American National Standard ANSI/ISEA Z308.1-2015, "Minimum Requirements for Workplace First-aid Kits," which classifies first aid kits as “Class A,” and “Class B” kits. While the former contains a basic range of products to deal with cuts, wounds, abrasions, minor burns, and injuries, the latter contains a broader range and quantity of supplies to cure injuries of high-risk environments. Following are the contents of the first aid kit recommended by ANSI.


  • - Adhesive bandage
  • - Adhesive tape
  • - Antibiotic application
  • - Antiseptic
  • - Breathing barrier
  • - Burn dressing (gel soaked)
  • - Burn treatment
  • - Cold pack
  • - Eye covering (with means of attachment)
  • - Eye/skin wash
  • - First aid guide
  • - Hand sanitizer
  • - Medical exam gloves
  • - Roller bandage (2 inches)
  • - Roller bandage (4 inches)
  • - Scissors
  • - Splint
  • - Sterile pad
  • - Tourniquet
  • - Trauma pad
  • - Triangular bandage

Q. Can any legal actions be taken against employers for not providing first aid?

A.

Yes. OSHA, the sub-agency of the U.S. Department of Labor, can cite an organization for not providing enough or readily available first aid. The federal body forms standards for workplace safety and oversees whether workplaces have implemented these regulations by conducting planned and sudden safety inspections. Work-related injuries due to the absence of first aid can result in citations and imposition of hefty fines against the violators by OSHA, especially when repeated infractions are noted.

Q. Are CPR and AED part of first aid?

A.

First aid does not include Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) and Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs). However, many employers consider providing them in the workplace given their life-saving capabilities. First responders take around 8-12 minutes to arrive once 911 is called. The more you delay defibrillation in a cardiac arrest, the lesser your chances of survival are. Therefore, having CPR & AED trained employees is more than essential for workplaces.

Q. Is it compulsory to have employees certified to perform first aid, CPR, and use an AED?

A.

According to OSHA standard 1910.151, a person or persons shall be adequately trained to render first aid, in the absence of an infirmary, clinic, or hospital close to the workplace.

Given their life-saving capabilities, it is recommended that workplaces have employees certified in CPR and AED response too on each work shift. OSHA standards that require additional CPR training are - 

1910.146 Permit-required Confined Spaces

1910.266 Appendix B: Logging Operations – First-Aid and CPR Training

1910.269 Electric Power Generation, Transmission, and Distribution 

1910.410 Qualifications of Dive Team

1926.950 Construction Subpart V, Power Transmission and Distribution

OSHA standards do not specifically address automated external defibrillators (AEDs) but encourage the installation of the devices in workplaces.


First aid training for employees can be conducted by organizations such as the American Red Cross. Or, a Certified First Aid/CPR/AED trainer can come on-site to certify your team. OSHA also recommends that employees receive first aid skills and knowledge re-training and updated certification cards every three years.

Q. How many first aiders are required at a workplace?

A.

The number of employees at a workplace required to be trained for providing first aid depends on several factors like -


  • - Size of the workforce
  • - Facility layout
  • - Number of shifts

In general, one or more than one employee should be trained and certified in first aid, including CPR, if the emergency medical services are more than 3-4 minutes away from the workplace. In the event of a cardiac arrest, first aid/CPR/AED-certified employees should be able to collect their response equipment and access the injured employee within 3 minutes.

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