Not all work environments are the classic 4 walls work environment, many employees work on the road traveling, work from home, or in other special situations, how do these unique work situations effect recordability of injuries?
Work Environments While Traveling
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.
OSHA has decided not to limit the recording of occupational injuries and illnesses to those cases that are preventable, fall within the employer’s control, or are covered by the employer’s safety and health program.
The issue is not whether the conditions could have, or should have, been prevented or whether they were controllable, but simply whether they are occupational, i.e., are related to work. This is true regardless of whether the employee is injured while on travel or while present at the employer’s workplace.
- An employee who is injured in an automobile accident or killed in an airline crash while traveling for the company has clearly experienced a work-related injury that is rightfully included in the OSHA injury and illness records and the Nation’s occupational injury and illness statistics.
OSHA believes that employees who are engaged in management, sales, customer service and similar jobs must often entertain clients, and that doing so is a business activity that requires the employee to work at the direction of the employer while conducting such tasks. If the employee is injured or becomes ill while engaged in such work, the injury or illness is work-related and should be recorded if it meets one or more of the other criteria (death, medical treatment, etc.).
- Gastroenteritis, for example, is one type of injury or illness that may occur in this situation, but employees are also injured in accidents while transporting clients to business-related events at the direction of the employer or by other events or exposures arising in the work environment.
On the other hand, not all injuries and illnesses sustained in the course of business-related entertainment are reportable. To be recordable, the entertainment activity must be one that the employee engages in at the direction of the employer. Business-related entertainment activities that are undertaken voluntarily by an employee in the exercise of his or her discretion are not covered by the rule.
- For example, if an employee attending a professional conference at the direction of the employer goes out for an evening of entertainment with friends, some of whom happen to be clients or customers, any injury or illness resulting from the entertainment activities would not be recordable. In this case, the employee was socializing after work, not entertaining at the direction of the employer.
- Similarly, the fact that an employee joins a private club or organization, perhaps to “network” or make business contacts, does not make any injury that occurs there work-related.
Note that the recordkeeping regulation does not apply to travel outside the United States because the OSH Act applies only to the confines of the United States (29 U.S.C. Section 652(4)) and not to foreign operations. Therefore, the OSHA recordkeeping regulation does not apply to non-U.S. operations, and injuries or illnesses that may occur to a worker traveling outside the United States need not be recorded on the OSHA 300 Log.
Working at Home. 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.
Reporting Unclear Injuries and Incidents
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 if one or more events or exposures in the work environment caused or contributed to the condition or significantly aggravated a preexisting condition. 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.