OSHA Backtracks On Medical Tape As Medical Treatment After Pressure From Sports Trainers

OSHA has reversed an earlier policy that classified the use of kinesiology tape as an OSHA recordable medical treatment, deciding instead that it qualifies as first aid — backing down after agreeing to the sports training industry’s request to review information about how the medical tape is typically used. The interpretation makes a policy determination as to the use of elastic bandages and similar products as qualifying only as first aid.

The agency issued a July 6 interpretation letter to the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA) about the issue in response to a January request from the trade group for officials to reconsider their stance. “They were bombarded with information from the trainers association [showing that] it really is not medical treatment,” a source familiar with the issue says.

NATA had asked OSHA to revisit its stance on the recording requirement for kinesiology tape use under 9 CFR 1904 — Recording and Reporting Occupational Injuries and Illnesses.

“As requested, OSHA has reevaluated its classification of the application of kinesiology tape as constituting medical treatment. OSHA reviewed information associated with such tape from patent applications, from relevant instructional materials and directions for when and how to use it, from evaluations and descriptive experiences involving recommended uses and their efficacy, from assessments regarding the nature and mechanisms of its effects, and from reviews of the extent and nature of any medicinal, neurological, and physical properties and impacts,” the agency said.

The agency cited 29 CFR 1904.7 as first aid treatment including “any non-rigid means of support, such as elastic bandages, wraps, non-rigid back belts, etc.” The use of kinesiology tape and other types of elastic taping is included within the definition of first aid treatment, and thus the use of such tape alone would not be considered medical treatment.”

An industry attorney, writing online in The National Law Review, noted that the July 6 interpretation is a reversal of OSHA policy. OSHA in late 2014 issued an interpretation letter which stated that the use of kinesiology tape is considered medical treatment for OSHA recordkeeping purposes and is, therefore, recordable when used to treat a work-related injury, according to Tressi Cordaro, shareholder in the Washington, DC, region office of Jackson Lewis.

OSHA in the earlier December 2014 interpretation responded to an inquiry on the subject by stating that “[w]e consulted with physicians in OSHA’s Office of Occupational Medicine and they inform us that kinesiology taping is designed to relieve pain through physical and neurological mechanisms. The lifting action of the tape purportedly relieves pressure on pain receptors directly under the skin, allowing for relief from acute injuries.”

“The use of kinesiology tape is akin to physical therapy and is considered medical treatment beyond first aid for OSHA recordkeeping purposes,” the agency said at the time. — Christopher Cole (ccole@iwpnews.com)