Q. If I have an employee who has a pre-existing injury from something non-work-related, but she becomes reinjured while doing her job, do I have to record the injury?
A. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires employers to record each fatality, injury, and illness that is:
- A new case, and
- Work-related, and
- Meets one or more of the general recording criteria at 29 CFR 1904.7
[29 CFR 1904.4]
Defining Different Types of “Work-Related” Injuries
Today, we’ll focus on the second trigger: the injury must be “work-related.” In most cases, this is fairly straightforward, but it may become confusing when an injury that occurs at work is a result of a pre-existing condition that occurred outside of work.
Let’s do an example. Let’s say that John injures his shoulder playing softball with his friends on Saturday. He comes into work on Monday and begins his work shift and is initially able to do his job. After he’s been working for a couple hours, however, he wrenches his shoulder lifting some heavy boxes and has to take off work for the next week to recover. Would John’s injury be considered work-related if his shoulder was known to be previously injured from a non-work-related incident?
In this case, yes, it would need to be recorded. If a pre-existing injury or illness is “significantly aggravated” by an exposure in the work environment, then that aggravation makes the recurrence of the injury or illness a new case of a work-related injury/illness.
Pre-Existing Conditions Can Be “Significantly Aggravated”
A pre-existing injury has been “significantly aggravated” when an event or exposure leads to one of the following:
- One or more days away from work, days of restricted work, or days of job transfer,
- Medical treatment or a change in medical treatment,
- Loss of consciousness, or
[29 CFR 1904.5(b)(3)-(4)]
In John’s case, his pre-existing shoulder injury alone wouldn’t have required him to take time off work. However, when he lifted the boxes for his job, that activity aggravated his injury to the point where he had to take time off from work, making his injury work-related and creating an incident that must be recorded on the OSHA 300 log.
Avoid Recordable Injuries with Better Communication
Let’s do another example, this time of an incident that will not be recorded. On Sunday, Jane hurts her knee skiing. Before work begins on Monday, she informs her supervisor of the injury and is reassigned to do paperwork instead of physical activity for a few days.
A day of restricted work or job transfer as the result of an injury is usually recordable. However, as this reassignment occurred before any occupational exposures could aggravate Jane’s condition, her injury is solely the result of outside factors and, therefore, her case is not work-related and does not need to be recorded on the OSHA 300 log.
What difficulties have you found in determining a work-related injuries? Do you have any advice or tips for filling out the OSHA 300 log?