Every Australian workplace is legally obliged to provide appropriate and accessible first aid for every worker.
Having the correct first aid kits and supplies on hand is essential for workers’ health and wellbeing. At its most critical, it can mean the difference between life and death.
But how confident are you in using, checking and replenishing your workplace first aid kits and supplies? Even if you’ve completed a first aid course or have a First Aider at your workplace, first aid symbols and acronyms can leave anyone confused.
To help you become a workplace first aid leader, we’ve created this guide to some of the most common workplace first aid packaging symbols and acronyms.
First aid symbols
There are many symbols that relate to the information, procedures, equipment and products used in a workplace first aid emergency. These ensure not just the safety of the end-user, but legal compliance as well.
These symbols are designed to be consistent and quickly and easily understood at a glance.
Box with roof and sun
A box underneath a roof with sun rays overhead indicates the first aid product should be kept away from direct sunlight as it could be damaged or compromised if stored or left for an extended period in direct sunlight.
The CE mark signifies that the first aid product conforms with European Union (EU) health, safety and environmental protection standards. It means the product has been fully tested and certified to European Union standards. A CE mark is sometimes followed by the registration number or code of a notified body.
Circle with two arrows
A circle with two entwined arrows is used on packaging in many European countries and signifies the producer has made a financial contribution towards the recovery and recycling of packaging. It does not mean the packaging is recyclable.
Circled 2 with slash
A circled 2 with a slash means that the first aid product is for single use only, ie. not to be used more than once. This applies to first aid consumables like gloves, dressings, pads and resuscitation face shields. Some items like fabric roller bandages can be washed and reused.
Circled broken box with slash
A circled broken box with slash means the first aid product is not to be used if the packaging has been damaged or opened.
A factory pictogram shows the date that a first aid product was manufactured. If that date is more than five years past, dispose of and replace dry products like bandages and cotton consumables. Liquid products should be disposed of and replaced three years from the date of manufacture if no expiry date is given.
An hourglass pictogram shows the date a first aid product expires. The product is to be used before the expiration date, after which it may no longer be effective and possibly harmful to use.
"Latex" crossed out in a triangle
A triangle with the word "Latex" crossed out indicates that the product doesn't contain natural rubber latex, which is often used in adhesive materials, tapes and some disposable gloves. Latex-free products are safe for people with latex allergies.
LOT shows the Lot number assigned to a specific batch of first aid products. It enables the manufacturer to track and identify an item during the manufacturing process, or for a recall issue.
NON STERILE in a triangle
A triangle framing the words NON STERILE indicates that the product has not been sterilised. Non-sterile first aid products typically include fabric roller bandages, hot/cold packs and bulk packs of disposable gloves.
Ring with three overlapping pincers
A ring with three overlapping pincers symbolises a Bio (biological) Hazard, identifying biological materials that may be infectious, toxic, contaminated or otherwise dangerous to handle, such as blood, body fluids and bacterial microorganisms.
Sterile first aid products are essential to best practise wound care and healing. These products are sterilised during the manufacturing process, then specially packaged to maintain integrity.
The symbol includes the method by which the first aid item has been sterilised. This could be ethylene oxide (EO), radiation (R), x-ray (E) or hydrochloric acid (H).
Sterile products are usually those that have direct contact with an open wound, such as adhesive dressings, dressing pads, gauze swabs, eyewash solutions and some instruments like scissors.
Thermometer with temperature range
A thermometer with a temperature range shows the upper and lower temperature limits to which first aid products can be safely exposed.
Some products such as adhesive bandages and ice packs can be affected by extreme temperatures and may lose their effectiveness or become unsafe to use.
Triangle with three black arrows
A triangle with three black arrows indicates the product packaging is recyclable.
Umbrella with raindrops
An umbrella with raindrops signifies that the product should be kept dry and away from water.
White cross on green background
The white cross on a green background is the internationally recognised symbol for first aid. It guides people to available first aid care, resources or facilities such as a first aid kit or first aid room.
White heart with lightning bolt
The white heart with a lightning bolt indicates the presence of a defibrillator or AED (Automated External Defibrillator): a potentially life-saving device that analyses cardiac activity and delivers an electric shock to restart the heart during sudden cardiac arrest.
First Aid Acronyms
First aid acronyms are used as quick and easy reminders of important first aid procedures in a workplace emergency.
Having a working knowledge of these acronyms can help you provide effective and efficient first aid care.
You’ll be better equipped to handle emergencies and potentially save a life.
Triple Zero (000)
Triple Zero (000) is the telephone number to call for police, fire or ambulance in an emergency. All calls to Triple Zero (000) are free of charge, even from a mobile phone. The words ‘Triple Zero’ always precede the ‘000’ numerals so as not to confuse people who may dial the letter ‘O’ three times by mistake.
AED (Automated External Defibrillator)
AED is the acronym for an Automated External Defibrillator, also known as a ‘defibrillator’ or ‘defib.’ An AED is a potentially life-saving device that analyses cardiac activity and delivers an electric shock to restart the heart during sudden cardiac arrest.
ARTG (Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods)
The ARTG is a record of detailed information for every TGA-regulated item including its unique identification (ID) number, name and manufacturer, ingredients, classification, date of listing, status and intended purpose.
BLS (Basic Life Support)
BLS is an initial level of emergency medical care provided to someone experiencing life-threatening injuries or illnesses. BLS aims to stabilise and keep someone alive until they can receive advanced medical care.
CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation)
CPR is the technique of applying uninterrupted, hard and fast chest compressions to circulate oxygenated blood if someone is in cardiac arrest (their heart stops beating) or is not breathing. When the heart stops pumping oxygen-rich blood to the brain and other organs, life-threatening brain damage occurs in just a few minutes. CPR can keep blood circulating until a heart rhythm is restored.
CPR ideally combines chest compressions with rescue (mouth-to-mouth) breathing, but if that’s not possible, chest compressions alone may still save a life.
The correct CPR technique for an adult is 30 chest compressions followed by 2 rescue breaths (30:2) in continuous cycles until emergency medical help arrives.
DRSABCD or “Doctors ABCD” (Danger, Response, Send for help, Airway, Breathing, Compressions, Defibrillation)
DRSABCD is an action plan used by first responders in any life-threatening situation. It’s a simple way to remember the critical and safest steps in providing first aid when someone is unconscious and not breathing.
FAO (First Aid Officer)
A FAO (or First Aider) is trained, certified and appointed to provide first aid in a workplace. They may be an employee or recruited from outside the workplace. The number of FAO’s required at a workplace is dependent on the risk level and number of people that work there.
FAST (Face, Arms, Speech, Time)
FAST is an indication of the most common signs of stroke. A first responder should check the patient for the following symptoms: Has their FACE partially drooped? Can they raise both ARMS? Is their SPEECH slurred? TIME is critical – call Triple Zero (000) immediately if any of these signs are present.
HARM (Heat, Alcohol, Re-injury/Running, Massage)
As the acronym suggests, HARM should be avoided in the first 48-72 hours of a soft tissue injury, such as a sprain or strain, to optimise a full recovery. It complements the RICER method, see below.
MHFA (Mental Health First Aid)
MHFA is a training program that teaches how to recognise, connect and respond to someone experiencing a mental health problem or mental health crisis.
PCBU (Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking)
A PCBU holds the primary duty of care to ensure the health and safety of workers and others at the workplace, under the Australian Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act). A PCBU can be a company, an unincorporated body or association, a sole trader or a self-employed person. Persons who are in a partnership are individually and collectively a PCBU.
PIT (Pressure Immobilisation Technique)
PIT aims to delay the movement of venom around the body without obstructing normal blood flow after a bite or sting from a snake, funnel-web spider, blue-ringed octopus or cone snail. PIT requires the first responder to quickly apply a firm compression bandage to the bite site and extend it as high and low as possible, keeping fingers or toes exposed. Then immobilise the limb with a splint and keep the patient calm and completely still until emergency help arrives.
PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) and PPC (Personal Protective Clothing)
PPE and PPC provides workers with a level of protection between themselves and hazardous or dangerous work conditions. WHS regulations require the PCBU to provide suitable PPE/PPC as needed. Examples of PPE include gloves, respiratory masks and shields, eyewear, sun protection and safety harnesses, while PPC includes head protection, footwear and clothing.
RICER (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation, Refer)
RICER is a first aid technique to manage sprains, strains, and dislocations. Rest the injured limb or body part, apply a wrapped Ice pack, apply a Compression bandage to the limb, Elevate it on a cushioned surface, Refer for medical assistance or ambulance if the patient is in severe pain or cannot be transported. RICER should be used in conjunction with HARM, see above.
TGA (Therapeutic Goods Administration)
The TGA is the Australian government authority responsible for evaluating, assessing and monitoring the therapeutic goods that help Australians stay healthy and safe. Therapeutic goods may be medicines, medical devices or biologicals (made from or containing human cells or human tissues or comprising or containing live animal cells, tissues or organs).
WHS (Work Health and Safety)
WHS laws, regulations and policies ensure the health and safety of workers in the workplace. Also known as Occupational Health and Safety (OHS).