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Is it work related?

Determining whether an injury or illness is work-related is not always easy. If a staff member is injured or becomes ill because of a job activity or exposure, they are entitled to certain protections under the OSH Act and most state Workers’ Compensation regulations. However, misclassifying an injury or illness as work-related when it isn’t causes increased insurance rates and faulty workplace statistics.Under OSHA’s recordkeeping rules, an injury or illness must be considered 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 on the practice property, unless one of these exceptions apply:
  • At the time of the injury or illness, the staff member was present in the work environment as a member of the general public rather than as an employee. (See section below)

  • 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 example, a heart attack or stroke).
  • 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 a staff member eating, drinking, or preparing food or drink for their personal consumption (whether bought on the practice premises or brought in). For example, if the staff member is injured by choking on a sandwich while in the practice, the case would not be considered work-related.

    Note: If the staff member is made ill by ingesting food contaminated by workplace contaminants (such as lead, drugs or pathogens), or gets food poisoning from food supplied by the practice, the case would be considered work-related.
  • The injury or illness is solely the result of a staff member doing personal tasks (unrelated to their employment) at the establishment outside of the their assigned working hours.
  • The injury or illness is solely the result of personal grooming, 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 on a practice parking lot or access road while the staff member is commuting to or from work.
  • 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 staff member is infected at work).
  • The illness is a mental illness. Mental illness will not be considered work-related unless the staff member voluntarily provides the practice 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 staff member has a mental illness that is work-related.

Presence In The Facility

It is assumed the worker's presence in the workplace is enough to determine the injury is work-related.  The exception to that rule is if the employee was present in the business as a member of the public and not an employee.  It's important to separate the issue of insurance liability from determining a work-related incident.  There are times when the business would probably be financially liable for an injury to someone, but that injury is not a work-related recordable incident. For example, consider a part time worker who is also a customer of the business. On a particular day they were a patron of the business and injured while walking through the kennel to get their dog who had just been released from care.  The business would probably be financially liable for the injury but since it was not related to their job, it would not be a recordable work related injury.  Certainly, the business would want to keep records of the incident and file a claim with the insurance company, but the incident is not recordable on the OSHA log.

If the incident or exposure happened off the practice property, the resulting injury or illness is considered work-related if the staff member was “engaged in work activities.” For instance, if the receptionist was making a bank deposit for the practice and was injured in a traffic accident, the injury would be work-related because the receptionist was “on company business” when the incident happened -- even if he/she were driving their own private vehicle.

Understanding the “work relationship” of accidents and situations is the first step to proper classification and subsequent control of workplace injuries and illnesses.



Did You Know...?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 2.9 million non fatal injuries to American workers in 2015.