Identifying OSHA Recordable Incidents
The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) generally requires covered employers to report workplace injuries and illnesses and prepare and maintain records of occupational injuries and illnesses. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is a part of the U.S. Department of Labor and is responsible for administering the recordkeeping system established by the OSH Act.
When complying with the OSHA recordkeeping rules, employers must determine which incidents to record. In some cases, this can require a detailed analysis of the situation to assess whether an incident is work-related.
This Compliance Overview includes a list of frequently asked questions and answers OSHA compiled to help employers determine whether an injury or illness is work-related and must be entered into the OSHA records.
Employers 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. Work-relatedness is presumed for injuries and illnesses resulting from events or exposures occurring in the work environment, unless an exception applies.
Frequently asked Questions
What is the “work environment”? OSHA defines the work environment as “the establishment and other locations where one or more employees are working 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 his or her work.”
Are there situations where an injury or illness occurs in the work environment and is not considered work-related? Injuries or illnesses that occur in the work environment, but are not considered work-related, are not recordable. An injury or illness occurring in the work environment that falls under one of the following exceptions is not work-related:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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. However, 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.
- The injury or illness is solely the result of an employee doing personal tasks (unrelated to his or her employment) at the establishment outside of the employee’s assigned working hours.
- The injury or illness is solely the result of personal grooming or self-medication for a non-work-related condition, or is intentionally self-inflicted.
- The injury or illness is caused by a motor vehicle accident and occurs in a company parking lot or on a company access road while the employee is commuting to or from work.
- The illness is the common cold or flu (Note: Contagious diseases such as tuberculosis, brucellosis, hepatitis A and plague are considered work-related if the employee is infected at work).
- 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 (such as a psychiatrist, psychologist or psychiatric nurse practitioner) stating that the employee has a mental illness that is work-related.
How do I handle a case if it is not obvious whether the precipitating event or exposure occurred in the work environment or occurred away from work? In these situations, you must 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.
How do I know if an event or exposure in the work environment “significantly aggravated” a pre-existing injury or illness? A pre-existing 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 pre-existing injury or illness would likely not have resulted in death, but for the occupational event or exposure.
- 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.
- 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.
Which injuries and illnesses are considered pre-existing conditions? An injury or illness is a pre-existing condition if it resulted solely from a non-work-related event or exposure that occurred outside the work environment.
How do I decide whether an injury or illness is work-related if the employee is on travel status at the time the injury or illness occurs? 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).
Injuries or illnesses that occur when the employee is on travel status do not have to be recorded if they meet one of these two exceptions:
- When a traveling employee checks into a hotel, motel or other temporary residence, he or she establishes a “home away from home.” Employers must evaluate the employee’s activities after he or she checks into the hotel, motel or other temporary residence for their work-relatedness in the same manner as an employer evaluates the activities of a non-traveling employee. 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, injuries or illnesses are not considered work-related if they occur while the employee is commuting between the temporary residence and the job location.
- Injuries or illnesses are not considered work-related if they occur while the employee is on a personal detour from a reasonably direct route of travel (for example, has taken a side trip for personal reasons).
How do I decide if a case is work-related when the employee is working at home? Injuries and illnesses that occur while an employee is working at home, including work in a home office, will be considered work-related if the injury or illness occurs while the employee is performing work for pay or compensation in the home, and the injury or illness is directly related to the performance of work rather than to the general home environment or setting.
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.