A crash course on work-relatedness
With 2020 well underway, our safety professionals have printed off a fresh batch of OSHA 300 forms and are duly recording work-related fatalities, injuries and illnesses that occur in workplaces this year.
However, not every work-related incident must be recorded on the OSHA forms. To be recordable, an incident must be work-related and result in death, loss of consciousness, days away from work, restricted work activities, a job transfer or medical treatment beyond first aid.
The most common question I get asked by First Supply’s safety professionals is whether the medical treatment received was beyond first aid. Last year, there was even an incident that we weren’t even sure was work-related. After reading that accident report, my gut reaction was, “Heck no!” An hour later, my legal research confirmed it was work-related, and we grudgingly recorded the incident on the OSHA 300 forms.
What defines work-related?
OSHA defines a work-related incident as one caused by “an event or exposure in the work environment.” Well, what is the work environment? OSHA states that a work environment is “the establishment and other locations where one or more employees are working or are present as a condition of their employment.” OSHA also includes, “the equipment and materials used by the employee during the course of his or her work,” in its definition of a work environment.
There are nine exceptions to the work-related definition above. If a fatality, injury or illness occurs due to one of these scenarios, you do not need to record it on your OSHA 300 forms. The exceptions are:
1. If the employee was present in the work environment as a member of the general public;
2. When signs or symptoms surface at work but result solely from an event or exposure outside the work environment;
3. The injury is 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. Results solely from eating, drinking or preparing food or drink for personal consumption. However, food poisoning from food provided by the employer is work-related;
5. The incident occurs solely from an employee doing personal tasks unrelated to their employment at the establishment but outside the employee’s assigned working hours;
6. If the incident is a result of personal grooming, self-medicating, a non-work related condition or is intentionally self-inflicted;
7. If the incident 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;
8. The common cold or flu; and
9. Mental illness; unless the employee voluntarily provides a written opinion from a licensed physician, psychiatrist, etc., that states the mental illness is work-related.
Let’s test our work-related knowledge!
An employee was sitting in a company-owned truck parked in the company parking lot during his lunch break. He passed the time by sharpening his personal pocket knife, which he does not use at work. The employee cuts his hand and gets seven stitches but returns to work immediately without restrictions.
Recordable: Exception five from the list above looks tempting; the employee was on site, but the pocketknife wasn’t used for his job, so it is a personal task. However, in a Letter of Interpretation, OSHA has ruled that lunch breaks are considered assigned working hours for OSHA record keeping purposes.
An employee attends a company safety training at which lunch is served to attendees. The employee then has an allergic reaction and is transported via ambulance for medical treatment.
Not recordable: Exception four does not apply because the employee experienced an allergic reaction, not food poisoning, from the meal.
An employee reports to work and his coworkers notice he is sweating profusely. He says he’s been sweating a lot since he woke up. Nonetheless, the employee puts on his PPE: slicker suit, hard hat with face shield and googles, rubber boots and rubber gloves. Later, he tells others that he isn’t feeling well and he’s soon taken to a hospital where he receives oxygen and a saline IV (medical treatment for heat stress), a blood test and monitored vital signs.
Recordable: OSHA states that since the PPE likely contributed to his condition, exception two does not apply and the incident must be recorded. Hopefully, this refresher crash course sharpens the analysis safety professionals make of the workplace incidents that cross their desk this year. A careful study of the work-related definition and the nine exceptions may lighten your 2020 OSHA 300 load.