In a letter of interpretation to Ms. Linda Ballas dated December 12, 2014, OSHA clarified 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.

Under 29 CFR Part 1904 – Recording and Reporting Occupational Injuries and Illnesses, treatment of an injury with first aid does not trigger the recordkeeping requirements.  Section 1904.7(b)(5)(ii) defines what is considered “first aid” which includes the use of “any non-rigid means of support, such as elastic bandages, wraps, non-rigid back belts, etc.”

Kinesiology tape was developed by Dr. Kenzo Kase in the mid-1970s.  Therapeutic kinesiology tape is a type of strapping tape which is thin and stretchy.  It is adhesive which allows it to be applied to the body rather than being wrapped like an Ace® bandage.   It mimics the properties of human skin in thickness and elasticity.  Its uses include treating musculoskeletal injuries and inflammatory conditions. Some of its appeal lies in the fact that it can be worn for several days, including while exercising or bathing, and it does not restrict the patient’s range of motion.

It is likely most employers consider the use of kinesiology tape as first aid, similar to elastic bandages or wraps.  However, OSHA has looked beyond the mere physical properties of kinesiology tape and placed a greater emphasis on its design and purpose.  In the letter of interpretation, OSHA said:

“The use of kinesiology tape is akin to physical therapy and is considered medical treatment beyond first aid for OSHA recordkeeping purposes. See Section 1904.7(b)(5)(ii)(M).”

Although skeptics cite the lack of hard scientific studies to support the medical benefits of kinesiology tape, OSHA has chosen to rely on those claims in deciding that its use goes beyond first aid.  So although using an ACE® bandage is considered first aid, OSHA has decided that kinesiology tape is materially different and its use “is akin to physical therapy” which makes it medical treatment beyond first aid and therefore its use for a work-related injury is recordable.

In an article published by Bloomberg BNA, Ms. Ballas said that she wrote the letter to OSHA to seek clarification about the tape which some of her clients wanted to use with the understanding that it would fall into the first aid reporting exception.  She went on to say that based on OSHA’s letter of interpretation, those same clients would not use kinesiology tape but would seek to use other treatments which fall within the parameters of “First Aid” as defined by OSHA.

The letter of interpretation may be found online.