Is Massage a Form of First Aid?

When it comes to workplace injuries and illnesses, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has specific regulations in place. Section 1904, 7 (b) ((iii) of the OSHA regulations states that massage and exercise guidelines are listed as first-aid injury prevention measures. This means that massage is considered to be a form of first aid. However, when a provider prescribes specific therapeutic exercises in response to a work-related injury or illness, it is considered medical treatment and must be recorded as such.

In a recent standard interpretation, OSHA concluded that soft tissue management (massage) is first aid for record-keeping purposes. The record-keeping regulations do not include special rules for recording injuries and soft tissue diseases, so the determination of whether to record such injuries is the same analysis as any other injury or illness. According to OSHA, first aid includes the following items:

  • Using non-prescription medications at nonprescription strength (for medications available in both prescription and non-prescription form, a recommendation by a physician or other licensed health care professional to use a non-prescription medication at prescription strength is considered medical treatment for record-keeping purposes).
  • 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.
  • Using hot or cold therapy.
  • Using any non-rigid means of support, such as elastic bandages, wraps, non-rigid back belts, etc.
  • Using temporary immobilization devices while transporting an accident victim (such as splints, slings, neck collars, back boards, etc.).
  • Drilling of fingernails and toenails to relieve pressure.
  • 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 or other simple means.
  • Using finger guards.
  • Massage and exercise guidelines.
It is important to note that these treatments are only considered first aid if they are used for minor injuries or illnesses. If an injury or illness requires more extensive treatment than what is listed above, it must be recorded as medical treatment.