You never know when an accident might happen. Someone could get a nasty papercut in the office, burn themselves while cooking dinner, or suffer an injury while hiking outdoors. Being prepared with a first aid kit can make a huge difference in these everyday emergencies. But with so many options out there, how do you choose? Surprisingly, there are only two main classes of first aid kits to choose from. Keep reading to find out everything you need to know to pick the perfect first aid kit for your needs!
A Quick Intro to First Aid Kits
First aid kits are basically portable emergency medical kits filled with essential supplies to treat minor injuries and keep folks alive until professional medical care arrives for serious accidents. Having a well-stocked first aid kit and basic knowledge of first aid is a smart idea for homes, offices, vehicles, and anywhere people gather.
According to the American Red Cross, roughly half of small businesses lack a first aid kit. Don’t let yours be one of them! Staying prepared with the right supplies can literally save someone’s life one day.
The contents of a first aid kit can vary widely, but most contain common items like bandages, gauze, antiseptic wipes, latex gloves, scissors, tweezers, thermometers, compression wraps, instant cold packs, eye wash, medical tape, and basic medications like aspirin and antihistamines.
First aid kits come in all shapes and sizes from small portable pouches to large cabinet-sized wall units. But when it comes down to it, there are two main classes that all kits belong to: Class A and Class B. Let’s explore the key differences between these two classes so you can decide which type of kit is right for your situation.
Class A First Aid Kits
Class A first aid kits are designed for use in lower risk environments where minor injuries are most likely to occur. Think offices, churches, schools, or hotels. These kits are regulated by ANSI and OSHA standards to contain essentials for treating small cuts, bruises, burns, splinters, blisters, and other superficial wounds.
What’s in a Class A First Aid Kit?
At a minimum, OSHA and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) require Class A first aid kits to contain these basic supplies:
- Adhesive bandages (16 regular size)
- Sterile gauze pads (2)
- Rolled gauze bandages (1 2-inch bandage)
- Adhesive tape (1 roll)
- Antiseptic wipes (10)
- Soap or hand sanitizer (6 single use packets)
- Medical exam gloves (2 pairs)
- Breathing barrier for CPR
- Burn treatment gel (1)
- Eyewash (1 fl. oz. total)
- First aid instruction guide
Beyond the basics, many Class A kits also include useful items like:
- Various bandage sizes
- Finger splints
- Rolled elastic bandages
- Cold packs
- Trauma scissors
- Alcohol wipes
- Medical creams
- Eye pads
- Triangular bandages
- Safety pins
The red cross symbol on a first aid kit ensures it meets the minimum ANSI Class A requirements. Go beyond the minimum with additional supplies to handle more emergencies.
When Should You Use a Class A First Aid Kit?
Class A first aid kits are best suited for areas with low risk of serious injuries. Think office settings, classrooms, churches, hotels, assisted living facilities, and other indoor locations. Well-stocked Class A kits allow you to effectively treat most minor wounds people suffer regularly like:
- Paper cuts
- Small puncture wounds
- Minor burns
- Sprains and strains
- Allergic reactions
- Minor headaches and pain
Class A kits are fairly basic. While they can temporarily treat many common mishaps, they lack supplies to handle major trauma. Upgrading to a Class B kit is wise for high risk workplaces.
The Pros and Cons of Class A First Aid Kits
- Inexpensive and easy to stock
- Portable sizes available
- Covers most minor injuries
- Meets OSHA guidelines for low risk areas
- Not enough for serious injuries
- Supplies limited for multiple patients
- Restocking required after use
- Size limits space for additions
With the essentials to clean and cover cuts, stop bleeding, prevent infection, and more, Class A first aid kits are a smart choice for hundreds of business types to prepare for minor accidents.
Class B First Aid Kits
When there’s elevated risk of serious injury, Class B first aid kits provide more comprehensive trauma supplies. These kits are built to stabilize major wounds while awaiting professional medical treatment.
What’s in a Class B First Aid Kit?
Class B first aid kits contain a wider selection and larger quantities of medical gear to handle significant injuries. Here are the minimum required supplies according to ANSI and OSHA:
- Absorbent compress (4)
- Adhesive bandages (50 assorted sizes)
- Adhesive tape (2 rolls)
- Antiseptic wipes (50)
- Blanket (emergency or thermal)
- Breathing barrier
- Burn dressing (2 gel soaks)
- Burn treatment gel (25 single use packs)
- Cold pack (2)
- Eye covering (2)
- Eye wash (4 fl. oz. total)
- First aid guide
- Gauze pads (4 sterile)
- Hand sanitizer (10 single use packs)
- Medical exam gloves (4 pairs)
- Rolled gauze (2 rolls – 2&4 inch)
- Splint (1)
- Tourniquet (1)
- Trauma pads (4)
- Triangular bandage (2)
Additional useful items in many Class B kits:
- Variety of bandage sizes
- Rolled elastic wraps
- Alcohol wipes
- Trauma shears
- Medical tape
- Finger splints
- Cold packs
- Burn blankets
- CPR shield
With more medical gear to handle trauma, Class B kits meet the needs of higher risk workplaces.
When Should You Use A Class B First Aid Kit?
Class B first aid kits are intended for use in high risk work environments where serious injuries are more likely. Examples include:
- Construction sites
- Manufacturing facilities
- Science labs
- Emergency responders
- Public pools
- Fitness centers
- Landscaping companies
- Oil rigs
These kits allow employers to stabilize critical injuries like:
- Major burns
- Deep lacerations
- Gunshot or puncture wounds
- Broken bones
- Head trauma
- Severe bleeding
- Chest injuries
The Pros and Cons of Class B First Aid Kits
- Contains supplies for serious injuries
- More prep for multiple patients
- Meets OSHA guidelines for high risk areas
- More expensive than Class A
- Larger, less portable
- Restocking costs more after use
- Some supplies require training
Class B kits provide essential trauma gear to handle the first critical minutes after a major accident while waiting for EMTs.
While Class A & B kits cover many basics, additional specialty kits are available…
Other Types of First Aid Kits
Beyond the standard Class A and B first aid kits, you can also find specialty kits designed to treat specific injuries like burns or massive bleeding. Here are some other types of kits available:
Burn kits – Specialized supplies like burn gel, dressings, and sterile pads to cool burns and reduce scarring. A must-have for kitchens!
Bleeding control kits – For major bleeding from lacerations and punctures. Contains tourniquets, clotting gauze, and compression bandages.
Emergency kits – Kits focused on survival in addition to first aid. May include blankets, food, water, radios, and other gear. Useful for natural disasters.
Vehicle/travel kits – Compact kits to carry in cars, trucks, boats, and RVs in case of roadside emergencies.
Custom kits – Customized contents to meet specific workplace needs. Include your own branding!
Picking an additional specialized kit can perfectly complement your primary Class A or Class B kit. Custom kits allow you to tailor the contents for your exact environment.
Now let’s explore the key factors in building your dream first aid kit…
What Should You Include In A First Aid Kit?
Creating your own custom first aid kit allows you to tailor the contents for your specific situation. While OSHA dictates minimum requirements for Class A and B kits, most workplaces benefit from additional gear.
Start with the Essentials
It’s smart to include all of the basic supplies required by OSHA for your class kit even if you plan to add more items. This ensures you have the fundamental tools to clean and bandage wounds, prevent infection, treat burns, and handle other minor emergencies at a minimum.
You’ll find these essentials in off-the-shelf Class A and Class B kits, or you can build your own custom kits starting with the required baseline of gear.
Consider the Most Common Injuries
Think about the types of injuries most likely to occur where the kit will be used. This helps determine the extra supplies that will get the most use.
For a kitchen first aid kit, include extra burn gel and sterile pads to treat stove and oven burns. In an office, pack more small bandages for paper cuts. A construction site benefits from additional trauma supplies like tourniquets in case of an accident.
Include Tools to Help Responders
In a major emergency, first aid is only the initial response until EMT professionals can arrive. Include tools to assist responders like latex-free gloves, masks, markers, notepads, emergency blankets, and biohazard bags.
Basic items like scissors, tweezers, thermometers, and flashlights also simplify providing care.
Choose High Quality Approved Products
Pick commercial grade first aid products rather than generic equivalents which may not be as effective. Look for items that are FDA approved or meet Red Cross recommendations.
Bandages, dressings, antiseptics, burn treatments, wraps, cold packs, and medications all impact quality of care.
Remember the Information Card
Include a first aid instruction manual, information card, or poster to remind people how to appropriately use the kit’s contents.
First aid techniques and procedures can slip from memory. Printed instructions ensure proper treatment.
With the right planning, you can create a custom first aid kit with the perfect supplies to handle emergencies in your unique environment. Don’t settle for a generic kit!
First Aid Kit Safety Tips
- Inspect kits monthly and restock any depleted items.
- Check expiration dates. Replace expired medications, ointments, pads, gloves, and perishable items.
- Consider protective cases to prevent water and dust damage for kits used outdoors or in extreme environments.
- Notify coworkers, students, or visitors whenever first aid kit locations change.
- Only include OTC medications in original sealed packages, never loose pills.
- Store kits out of direct sunlight and extreme temperatures which can degrade contents.
- Discard and replace any compromised sterile dressings, pads, gauze, or instruments.
- Consider smaller portable kits in addition to larger wall-mounted units to allow mobility.
- Ensure compliance with OSHA or ANSI regulations for your workplace’s level of risk.
Ready To Pick The Perfect First Aid Kit?
Now that you know the basics about Class A and B first aid kits, it’s time to decide which type is ideal for your situation.
For low risk office and indoor environments where minor cuts and bruises occur, a well-stocked Class A kit will suffice.
In potentially dangerous job sites where serious trauma is possible, Class B kits provide vital tools to stabilize life-threatening injuries during emergencies.
Specialized kits for burns, bleeding, emergency survival, or vehicle use nicely complement standard kits. Building a custom first aid kit allows you to tailor the contents to the specific needs of your home, workplace, vehicle, or activity.
Being prepared in advance and keeping first aid kits well-maintained is crucial. Remember to inspect and resupply kits regularly and notify everyone about location changes.
With the right first aid kit on hand, you can respond quickly, potentially save lives, and minimize the severity of injuries as you wait for professional help to arrive. Stay safe!