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Course 708 - OSHA Recordkeeping Basics

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Work-Relatedness

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In this module, we'll take a look at Paragraph (5) of the rule to become more familiar with the concept of "work-relatedness" and how it applies to OSHA 300 Recordkeeping.

When is an injury or illness work-related

You must consider an injury or illness to be work-related if an event or exposure in the work environment either caused or contributed to:

  • the resulting condition, or
  • significantly aggravated a pre-existing injury or illness.

You should presume work-relatedness for injuries and illnesses resulting from events or exposures occurring in the work environment, unless an exception in 29 CFR 1904.5(b)(2) specifically applies. We'll discuss these exceptions in the next section.

When is a workers' compensation case work-related?

A case is presumed work-related if, and only if, an event or exposure in the work environment:

  • is a discernible cause of the injury or illness; or
  • a significant aggravation to a pre-existing condition.

The work event or exposure need only be one of the discernible causes; it need not be the sole or predominant cause.

"Work Environment"

The work environment is the establishment and other locations where one or more employees work or are present as a condition of their employment.

The work environment includes not only physical locations, but also the equipment or materials used by the employee during the course of their work.

"Significantly Aggravated"

A pre-existing injury or illness is significantly aggravated when an event or exposure in the work environment results in any of the circumstances below.

  1. Death, provided that the pre-existing injury or illness would likely not have resulted in death but for the occupational event or exposure.
  2. Loss of consciousness, provided that the pre-existing injury or illness would likely not have resulted in loss of consciousness but for the occupational event or exposure.
  3. One or more days away from work, of restricted work, or days of job transfer that otherwise would not have occurred but for the occupational event or exposure.
  4. Medical treatment in a case where no medical treatment was needed for the injury or illness before the workplace event or exposure, or a change in medical treatment was necessitated by the workplace event or exposure.

To ensure that non-work-related cases are not entered on the Log, the rule requires employers to consider as non-work-related any injury or illness that "involves signs or symptoms that surface at work but result solely from a non-work-related event or exposure that occurs outside the work environment." (See Table here.)

Pre-existing conditions also include any injury or illness that the employee experienced while working for another employer.

Non Work-Related Injuries

An injury or illness occurring in the work environment that falls under one of the following exceptions is not work-related and therefore is not recordable. Do not record injuries and illnesses if the circumstances below occurred.

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Work Enviroments while Traveling

Injuries and illnesses that occur while an employee is on travel status are work-related if, at the time of the injury or illness, the employee was engaged in work activities "in the interest of the employer." Examples of such activities include travel to and from customer contacts, conducting job tasks, and entertaining or being entertained to transact, discuss, or promote business (work-related entertainment includes only entertainment activities being engaged in at the direction of the employer).

Similarly, if an employee is injured in an automobile accident while running errands for the company or traveling to make a speech on behalf of the company, the employee is present at the scene as a condition of employment, and any resulting injury would be work-related.

Injuries or illnesses that occur when the employee is on travel status do not have to be recorded if they meet one of the exceptions listed below.

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Injuries or illnesses that occur when the employee is on travel status do not have to be recorded if they meet one of the exceptions listed in the table to the right.

More Guidelines While in Travel Status

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OSHA has decided not to limit the recording of occupational injuries and illnesses to those cases that are preventable, fall within the employer's control, or are covered by the employer's safety and health program.

The issue is not whether the conditions could have, or should have, been prevented or whether they were controllable, but simply whether they are occupational, i.e., are related to work. This is true regardless of whether the employee is injured while on travel or while present at the employer's workplace.

  • An employee who is injured in an automobile accident or killed in an airline crash while traveling for the company has clearly experienced a work-related injury that is rightfully included in the OSHA injury and illness records and the Nation's occupational injury and illness statistics.

OSHA believes that employees who are engaged in management, sales, customer service and similar jobs must often entertain clients, and that doing so is a business activity that requires the employee to work at the direction of the employer while conducting such tasks. If the employee is injured or becomes ill while engaged in such work, the injury or illness is work-related and should be recorded if it meets one or more of the other criteria (death, medical treatment, etc.).

  • Gastroenteritis, for example, is one type of injury or illness that may occur in this situation, but employees are also injured in accidents while transporting clients to business-related events at the direction of the employer or by other events or exposures arising in the work environment.

On the other hand, not all injuries and illnesses sustained in the course of business-related entertainment are reportable. To be recordable, the entertainment activity must be one that the employee engages in at the direction of the employer. Business-related entertainment activities that are undertaken voluntarily by an employee in the exercise of his or her discretion are not covered by the rule.

  • For example, if an employee attending a professional conference at the direction of the employer goes out for an evening of entertainment with friends, some of whom happen to be clients or customers, any injury or illness resulting from the entertainment activities would not be recordable. In this case, the employee was socializing after work, not entertaining at the direction of the employer.

  • Similarly, the fact that an employee joins a private club or organization, perhaps to "network" or make business contacts, does not make any injury that occurs there work-related.

Note that the recordkeeping regulation does not apply to travel outside the United States because the OSH Act applies only to the confines of the United States (29 U.S.C. Section 652(4)) and not to foreign operations. Therefore, the OSHA recordkeeping regulation does not apply to non-U.S. operations, and injuries or illnesses that may occur to a worker traveling outside the United States need not be recorded on the OSHA 300 Log.

Work-Related vs. Telecommuting Injuries

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When an employee is working on company business in his or her home and reports an injury or illness to his or her employer, and the employee's work activities caused or contributed to the injury or illness, or significantly aggravated a preexisting injury, the case is considered work-related and must be further evaluated to determine whether it meets the recording criteria. If the injury or illness is related to non-work activities or to the general home environment, the case is not considered work-related. For example:

  • If an employee drops a box of work documents and injures his or her foot, the case is considered work-related.

  • If an employee's fingernail is punctured by a needle from a sewing machine used to perform garment work at home, becomes infected and requires medical treatment, the injury is considered work-related.

  • If an employee is injured because he or she trips on the family dog while rushing to answer a work phone call, the case is not considered work-related.

  • If an employee working at home is electrocuted because of faulty home wiring, the injury is not considered work-related.

Working at Home

Injuries and illnesses occurring while the employee is working for pay or compensation at home should be treated like injuries and illnesses sustained by employees while traveling on business. The relevant question is whether or not the injury or illness is work-related, not whether there is some element of employer control. The mere recording of these injuries and illnesses as work-related cases does not place the employer in the role of ensuring the safety of the home environment.

OSHA has recently issued a compliance directive (CPL 2-0.125) that clarifies that OSHA will not conduct inspections of home offices and does not hold employers liable for employees' home offices. The compliance directive also notes that employers required by the recordkeeping rule to keep records will continue to be responsible for keeping such records, regardless of whether the injuries occur in the factory, in a home office, or elsewhere, as long as they are work-related, and meet the recordability criteria.

Reporting Unclear Injuries and Incidents

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If an employee reports pain and swelling in a joint but cannot say whether the symptoms first arose during work or during recreational activities at home, it may be difficult for the employer to decide whether the case is work-related. The same problem arises when an employee reports symptoms of a contagious disease that affects the public at large, such as a staphylococcus infection or Lyme disease, and the workplace is only one possible source of the infection.

In these situations, the employer must evaluate the employee's work duties and environment to decide whether one or more events or exposures in the work environment either caused or contributed to the resulting condition or significantly aggravated a preexisting condition.

  • If the employer determines that it is unlikely that the precipitating event or exposure occurred in the work environment, the employer would not record the case.

  • In the staph infection example given above, the employer would consider the case work-related, for example, if another employee with whom the newly infected employee had contact at work had been out with a staph infection.

  • In the Lyme disease example, the employer would determine the case to be work-related if, for example, the employee was a groundskeeper with regular exposure to outdoor conditions likely to result in contact with deer ticks.

The employer must also determine if the precipitating event or exposure occurred in the work environment. If an event, such as a fall, an awkward motion or lift, an assault, or an instance of horseplay, occurs at work, the geographic presumption applies and the case is work-related unless it otherwise falls within an exception.

  • Thus, if an employee trips while walking across a level factory floor, the resulting injury is considered work-related under the geographic presumption because the precipitating event -- the tripping accident -- occurred in the workplace.

  • The case is work-related even if the employer cannot determine why the employee tripped, or whether any particular workplace hazard caused the accident to occur.

  • However, if the employee reports an injury at work but cannot say whether it resulted from an event that occurred at work or at home, as in the example of the swollen joint, the employer might determine that the case is not work-related because the employee's work duties were unlikely to have caused, contributed to, or significantly aggravated such an injury.

New Cases. What is a "new case"?

Is it Work-Related and Compensable?

An injury or illness is a “new case” if it meets one of the following two conditions:

  1. The employee has no previous recorded injury or illness of the same type that affects the same part of the body, or
  2. The employee previously had a recorded injury or illness of the same type that affected the same part of the body but recovered completely (all signs and symptoms disappeared) from the previous injury or illness and an event or exposure in the work environment caused the signs or symptoms to reappear.

For occupational illnesses where the signs or symptoms may recur or continue in the absence of a workplace exposure, record the case only once. Examples include occupational cancer, asbestosis, byssinosis and silicosis.

You are not required to seek the advice of a physician or other licensed health care professional. If you do seek such advice, you must follow their recommendation about whether the case is a new case or a recurrence.

Instructions

Before beginning this quiz, we highly recommend you review the module material. This quiz is designed to allow you to self-check your comprehension of the module content, but only focuses on key concepts and ideas.

Read each question carefully. Select the best answer, even if more than one answer seems possible. When done, click on the "Get Quiz Answers" button. If you do not answer all the questions, you will receive an error message.

Good luck!

Note: For questions 1-9, determine which of the situations are work-related injuries or illnesses.

1. Employee is swimming with his family at the pool where he is employed, slips and breaks his arm.

2. Employee is diagnosed with a mental illness as a result of nutritional deficiency.

3. Employee is injured when his car slides into a light pole in the company's icy parking lot upon arriving for work.

4. Employee is working at home (telecommuting) and the chair she is sitting on collapses, injuring her.

5. While cleaning up at the end of the shift, an employee sustains a broken hip as a result of tripping over a lug wrench the floor on the vehicle service shop.

6. Employee is injured in the lunch room at the worksite when he slips on some water while walking up to a fellow employee.

7. Employee is doing stretching exercises in the company lounge as part of the company's voluntary wellness program when she is injured.

8. Employee is driving a company truck delivering gravel to a worksite when injured.

9. Employee gets food poisoning from pizza provided by her employer as a safety reward.

10. OSHA limits the recording of occupational injuries and illnesses to those that are _____.

11. Which of the following is not an example of a possible significant aggravation to a pre-existing injury or illness?

12. Which of the following is not considered part of the work environment when determining work-relatedness?

13. Which of the following would be considered a work-related injury while traveling?

14. Which of the following is not considered a new case?

15. For occupational illnesses, record the case only once _____.


Have a great day!

Important! You will receive an "error" message unless all questions are answered.