Do You Know the Rules About Classifying Medical Treatment As First Aid and How it Saves You Money?

4 Aug

When an employee is injured on the job, it is important that they receive the best and most appropriate medical care. However, not all medical care must be either reported to your workers’ compensation insurer and charged against your claims – increasing your future experience modification – nor recorded as an injury in your OSHA Injury Records.

Cal/OSHA and Federal OSHA define “first aid” as any one-time treatment, and any follow up visit for the purpose of observation of minor scratches, cuts, burns, splinters, or other minor industrial injury, which do not ordinarily require medical care. This one-time treatment, and follow up visit for the purpose of observation, is considered first aid even though provided by a physician or registered professional personnel. California Labor Code 5401 (a).

Only the following services qualify as “first aid”:

  • Using a non-prescription medication at nonprescription strength
  • Administering tetanus immunizations (other immunizations, such as Hepatitis B vaccine or rabies vaccine, are considered medical treatment);
  • Cleaning, flushing or soaking wounds on the surface of the skin;


 Using wound coverings such as bandages, Band-Aids™, gauze pads, etc.; or using butterfly bandages or Steri-Strips™ (other wound closing devices such as sutures, staples, etc., are considered medical treatment-thus not first aid);

  • Using hot or cold therapy;
  • Using any non-rigid means of support, such as elastic bandages, wraps, non-rigid back belts, etc. (devices with rigid stays or other systems designed to immobilize parts of the body are considered medical treatment and not first aid);
  • Using temporary immobilization devices while transporting an accident victim (e.g., splints, slings, neck collars, back boards, etc.).
  • Drilling of a fingernail or toenail to relieve pressure, or draining fluid from a blister;
  • Using eye patches;
  • Removing foreign bodies from the eye using only irrigation or a cotton swab;
  • Removing splinters or foreign material from areas other than the eye by irrigation, tweezers, cotton swabs or other simple means;
  • Using finger guards;
  • Using massages (physical therapy or chiropractic treatment are considered medical treatment and not first aid); or
  • Drinking fluids for relief of heat stress.

Are any other procedures included in first aid? No, this is a complete list of all treatments considered first aid for OSHA (Regulation Part 1904) purposes.  Contact Don Dressler if you want to learn more: www.calworksafety.com.

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