Ask the Expert, Injuries and Illness

Ask the Expert: Determining Whether an Injury Was Caused in the Workplace

In our latest installment of Ask the Expert, brought to you by the team of industry experts at EHS Hero®, we look at a recent question from a subscriber asking whether an employee’s claim that an injury was work-related is recordable. See what the experts had to say.

workplace injury

Q: I’m attempting to determine if an employee claim of musculoskeletal disorder for both right and left wrists actually was caused by the workplace workstation as claimed by the employee. The condition resulted in medical operations to both wrists. When does this incident become an OSHA recordable injury, and are the days away from work which resulted from the medical operations counted as days away from work?

In cases where it is not obvious whether an employee’s injury or illness is work-related, the employer must evaluate the employee’s work duties and environment to determine whether or not it is likely that one or more events or exposures in the work environment either caused or contributed to the resulting condition or significantly aggravated a preexisting condition. You may seek and consider the guidance of a physician or licensed health care professional in making this assessment.

If the injury was solely caused by preexisting factors or exposures outside the work environment, it would not be considered work-related. However, even if there was a preexisting condition or a non-work related exposure, if the work environment significantly aggravated or worsened the injury, that is enough to make it a recordable case. The work environment does not need to be the only cause of an injury or illness in order for it be considered work-related; it just needs to be a cause or contributor.

If you have conflicting opinions from two or more physicians or other licensed healthcare professionals regarding the origin of the musculoskeletal disorder (e.g., the employee’s personal physician and a company doctor), it it is up to you, the employer, to make a determination as to which opinion is more authoritative.

The case becomes recordable when it is reported to the employer. An employer must record a work-related injury or illnesses on the OSHA 300 log within 7 days of learning about the injury or illness. Days away from work include any days, other than the day on which the injury or illness was incurred, that the employee was away from work as a result of the injury on the advice of a physician or other licensed healthcare professional. Based on the information you provided, it seems likely that if the employee’s musculoskeletal injury is determined to be work-related, the days on which that employee was away from work for medical operations directly related to that injury would be required to be recorded on the OSHA 300 log as days away from work.

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