To Record or Not to Record: That Is the Question
By Lisa Neuberger, EHS Editor at J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc.
There are often gray areas with injury and illness recordkeeping where it is not clear whether an injury meets the recording criteria, or in some cases, how and where the injury should be recorded.
Each employer required to keep an OSHA Injury and Illness Log must record each fatality, injury and illness that is work-related; a new case; and/or meets one or more of the general recording criteria. Conversely, covered employers must records all work-related fatalities and any injuries and illnesses that result in days away from work, restricted work, job transfer, or medical treatment beyond first aid or loss of consciousness.
In addition, employers must record certain significant work-related injuries or illnesses diagnosed by a physician or other licensed healthcare professional, even if those injuries do not otherwise trigger one of the general recording criteria (e.g., a punctured eardrum or broken toe).
Under the OSHA recordkeeping system, work-relatedness is presumed for injuries and illnesses resulting from events or exposures occurring in the workplace — except under the following circumstances, which are not recordable.
1.) The employee is present in the work environment as a member of the general public rather than an employee.
2.) The injury or illness 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. For this exception to apply, the work environment cannot have caused, contributed to, or significantly aggravated the injury or illness.
3.) The injury or illness results solely from voluntary participation in a wellness program or in a medical, fitness, or recreational activity such as blood donation, physical examination, flu shot, exercise class, racquetball or baseball.
4.) The injury or illness is solely the result of an employee eating, drinking, or preparing food or drink for personal consumption, whether purchased on company premises or brought in.
5.) The injury or illness is solely the result of an employee doing personal tasks (unrelated to their employment) at the establishment and outside of the employee’s assigned working hours (off-shift time).
“Personal tasks” are tasks that are unrelated to the employee’s job. For instance, if an employee uses a company break area to work on his child’s science projects, he is engaged in a personal task. Conversely, “assigned working hours” means those hours the employee is actually expected to work, including overtime; but for this exception to apply, both conditions must be present.
6.) The injury or illness is solely the result of personal grooming activities, self-medication for a non-work-related condition, or is intentional self-inflicted, such as attempted suicide.
“Personal grooming activities” are activities directly related to personal hygiene, such as combing and drying hair, brushing teeth, clipping fingernails and the like. Bathing or showering at the workplace when necessary because of an exposure to a substance at work is not within the personal grooming exception.
7.) The injury or illness is caused by a motor vehicle accident and occurs on a company parking lot or company access road while the employee is commuting to or from work or on a personal errand. It’s important to note that, if an employee is injured in a car accident while leaving the property to purchase supplies for work, the case is considered work-related. Likewise, if an employee is injured by slipping on ice permitted to accumulate in the parking lot, the case is work-related.
8.) The illness is the common cold or flu.
9.) The illness is a mental illness. Mental illness is not considered work-related unless the employee voluntarily provides the employer with an opinion from a physician or other licensed health care professional with appropriate training and experience, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, or psychiatric nurse practitioner, stating that the employee has a mental illness that is work-related.
NO APPARENT WORK CONNECTION
Some injuries occur with no apparent work-related cause. An example is an employee who is walking on an even surface whose knee suddenly buckles for no apparent reason. When an employee injures himself at work in the course of an event that does not seem to be related to, or caused by, the work environment, OSHA’s “geographic presumption” of work-relatedness assumes the injury is work-related because it occurred at work, unless one of the previously noted exceptions apply.
The “geographic presumption” also covers cases in which an injury or illness results from activities that occur at work but that are not directly productive, such as horseplay.
The recordkeeping rule has no general exception for purposes of determining work-relationship or for cases involving acts of violence in the work environment. You’d use the same criteria for determining recordability for acts of workplace violence as for any other event occurring in the workplace.
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