Injuries and Illness, Recordkeeping

Q&A: Recording Employee Illnesses

Recently, a subscriber asked the following question:

We have recently had two medical issues that required us to send the employees to the hospital. One passed out and collapsed from pneumonia, and the other had a potential TIA. Do either of these qualify as OSHA recordable accidents?

This was our answer:

29 CFR 1904.5(a) states, “[the employer] 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. Work-relatedness is presumed for injuries and illnesses resulting from events or exposures occurring in the work environment, unless an exception in 29 CFR 1904.5(b)(2) specifically applies.”

In order to be a recordable event, the employee passing out must be the result of a work-related event or exposure. The exception to the presumption of work-relatedness in 29 CFR 1904.5(b)(2)(ii) allows you to exclude cases that involve signs or symptoms that surface at work but result solely from a nonwork-related event or exposure. This exception allows you to exclude cases where a loss of consciousness is due solely to a personal health condition—in this case pneumonia. This is not a recordable case.

In the preamble to the recordkeeping rule (66 FR 5916, 29 CFR 1904 and 1952), OSHA addresses nonoccupational degenerative conditions such as high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, heart attacks that could cause a potential transient ischemic attack (TIA). These conditions can develop regardless of workplace exposure. OSHA has not added such an exception to the rule. So, the Agency expects you to make a determination about the extent to which, if at all, work either caused or contributed to or significantly aggravated a pre-existing condition. For example, if work contributed to the TIA in some way, then it is work-related and must be recorded. On the other hand, if the case is wholly caused by nonwork factors, then it is not work-related and will not be recordable.