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Work-Relatedness

Commitment is time and money.
Most workplace injuries are work-related.

In this module, we'll take a look at Section 1904.5 to become more familiar with the concept of "work-relatedness" and how it applies to OSHA 300 Log Recordkeeping.

When is an injury or illness work-related?

An injury or illness is 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. (Section 1904.5)

Work-relatedness is presumed for injuries and illnesses resulting from events or exposures occurring in the work environment. The work environment includes not only physical locations, but also the equipment or materials used by the employee to perform work, unless an in 1904.5(b)(2) specifically applies. We'll discuss these exceptions shortly.

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:

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

1. A case is work-related if, in the work environment, an event or exposure _____.

a. may have changed a pre-existing condition
b. occurred within 24 hours of the injury or illness
c. caused or contributed to the injury or illness
d. influenced the injury or illness

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What does "significantly aggravated" mean?

Aggravated Injury
Injuries can be aggravated after a preexisting condition.

A preexisting injury or illness has been significantly aggravated, for purposes of OSHA injury and illness recordkeeping, when an event or exposure in the work environment results in any of the following:

  • Death, provided that the preexisting injury or illness would likely not have resulted in death but for the occupational event or exposure.
  • Loss of consciousness, provided that the preexisting injury or illness would likely not have resulted in loss of consciousness but for the occupational event or exposure.
  • One or more days away from work, or days of restricted work, or days of job transfer that otherwise would not have occurred but for the occupational event or exposure.
  • 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.

Who Makes the Determination of Work-Relatedness?

OSHA believes employers can best evaluate the employee's work duties and environment to decide whether or not one or more events or exposures in the work environment either caused or contributed to the resulting condition or significantly aggravated a pre-existing condition.

Employers are in the best position to obtain the information, both from the employee and the workplace, that is necessary to make this determination. Although expert advice may occasionally be sought by employers in particularly complex cases, the final rule provides that the determination of work-relatedness ultimately rests with the employer. (66 FR 5946-5962, Jan. 19, 2001)

2. According to OSHA, who is best positioned to determine if the workplace somehow caused, contributed to, or significantly aggravated an injury or illness?

a. Safety committees
b. Physicians
c. Workers' compensation specialists
d. Employers

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Not work-related table
Not all injuries in the workplace are work-related.

Non Work-Related Injuries

To ensure non-work-related injury/illness cases are not entered on the OSHA 300 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.

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.

Click on the button to see the table that lists the exceptions.

1904.5
(b)(2)
You are not required to record injuries and illnesses if . . .
(i) At the time of the injury or illness, the employee was present in the work environment as a member of the general public rather than as an employee.
(ii) 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.
(iii) 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.
(iv) The injury or illness is solely the result of an employee eating, drinking, or preparing food or drink for personal consumption (whether bought on the employer's premises or brought in). For example, if the employee is injured by choking on a sandwich while in the employer's establishment, the case would not be considered work-related.

Note: If the employee is made ill by ingesting food contaminated by workplace contaminants (such as lead), or gets food poisoning from food supplied by the employer, the case would be considered work-related.
(v) The injury or illness is solely the result of an employee doing personal tasks (unrelated to their employment) at the establishment outside of the employee's assigned working hours.
(vi) The injury or illness is solely the result of personal grooming, self medication for a non-work-related condition, or is intentionally self-inflicted.
(vii) 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.
(viii) The illness is the common cold or flu (Note: contagious diseases such as tuberculosis, brucellosis, hepatitis A, or plague are considered work-related if the employee is infected at work).
(ix) The illness is a mental illness. Mental illness will not be 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 (psychiatrist, psychologist, psychiatric nurse practitioner, etc.) stating that the employee has a mental illness that is work-related.

3. If an employee is injured by choking on a sandwich while in the employer's establishment, the case would _____.

a. most likely be considered work-related
b. not be considered work-related
c. might be considered work-related during work hours
d. work-related if the employer made the sandwich

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Work Environments While Traveling

Checking in to motel.
Checking in creates a "home away from home.

Work in the interest of the employer. 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, training, work-related meetings, 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.

Home Away From Home. When a traveling employee checks into a hotel, motel, or into another temporary residence, for one or more days, he or she establishes a "home away from home." After he or she checks in, evaluate the employee's activities for their work-relatedness in the same manner as you evaluate the activities of a non-traveling employee. For example:

  • When the employee checks into the temporary residence, he or she is considered to have left the work environment. When the employee begins work each day, he or she re-enters the work environment.
  • If the employee has established a "home away from home" and is reporting to a fixed worksite each day, you also do not consider injuries or illnesses work-related if they occur while the employee is commuting between the temporary residence and the job location.

Taking a Detour. Injuries or illnesses are not considered work-related if they occur while the employee takes a detour for personal reasons from a reasonably direct route of travel. For example, the employee took a side trip for personal reasons.

4. Work-related activities while an employee is on travel status includes each of the following EXCEPT _____.

a. conducting required training at a conference
b. taking a spouse to dinner from the motel
c. meeting a client at a bar to discuss a contract
d. having a vehicle accident while running company errands

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Working at Home

Checking in to motel.
Don't report injuries at home unless they are work-related.

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 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.

Work-Relatedness While Telecommuting

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:

  • Work-related. If an employee drops a box of work documents and injures his or her foot, the case is considered work-related.
  • 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.
  • Non-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.
  • Non-work-related. If an employee working at home is electrocuted because of faulty home wiring, the injury is not considered work-related.

5. Which of the following situations would be considered a work-related injury or illness while telecommuting?

a. An employee is hurt falling down at home during an earthquake
b. An employee is shocked by faulty house wiring while plugging in a computer
c. An employee falls down the stairs on the way to the basement office
d. An employee suffers a strain from picking up a heavy box of work documents

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Recording Unclear Injuries and Incidents

Checking in to motel.
Is this condition caused by an event at work? Don't know? Then it's not work-related.

If an employee reports a condition but cannot say whether the symptoms first arose during work or during activities off work, the employer must evaluate the employee's work duties and environment to decide how to record the report. For instance:

  • if condition is reported and it is determined to be an isolated incident, it may not be work-related nor recordable;
  • if one or more events or exposures in the work environment caused or contributed to an injury or illness, or it significantly aggravated a preexisting condition, the condition is both work-related and recordable.

Below are examples of work-related and non-work-related incidents:

  • Work-related. If the employee is diagnosed with Lyme disease, the employer would determine the case to be work-related if the employee was a groundskeeper with regular exposure to outdoor conditions likely to result in contact with deer ticks.
  • Work-related. 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.
  • Non-work-related. If an employee has a staph infection, the employer would consider the case not work-related if the infection is an isolated incident - no other employees with whom the newly infected employee had contact at work had been out with a staph infection.
  • Non-work-related. If an employee reports a swollen joint, but cannot say whether it resulted from an event that occurred at work or at home, 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.

6. If an employee has a staph infection, the employer would consider the case not work-related if _____.

a. social distancing has been maintained
b. the infection is an isolated incident
c. a previous staph infection has not occurred for in the last week
d. the employee washed hands and face prior to work

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New Cases

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 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.

7. If an employee has an injury, which of the following would most likely be recorded as a new case?

a. The employee has recurring signs and symptoms of the injury
b. The employee injures the same part of the body
c. The employee has no history of previous injuries
d. The employee has recovered from an earlier injury

Check your Work

Read the material in each section to find the correct answer to each quiz question. After answering all the questions, click on the "Check Quiz Answers" button to grade your quiz and see your score. You will receive a message if you forgot to answer one of the questions. After clicking the button, the questions you missed will be listed below. You can correct any missed questions and check your answers again.

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