OSHA Interpretation Expands Recordable Injury Definition

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By Bruce Rolfsen

Aug. 5 — New federal guidance expands the type of medical care triggering the mandate for employers to record injuries in OSHA logs.

The rule interpretation letter was published online Aug. 1 by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

The letter says if an employee decides without first consulting a medical professional to treat wrist pain with a rigid brace, using the brace elevates the injury to becoming a recordable injury even if a doctor later says the brace isn't necessary.

Barbara Jo Ruble, a safety consultant with Speciality Technical Consultants Inc. in Baltimore, told Bloomberg BNA Aug. 4 that she asked for a rule interpretation from OSHA at the request of a client who was unsure whether to record a wrist pain case as an injury.

Doctor's Approval?

The heart of the question wasn't the use of the rigid brace, but rather whether a medical professional's approval for the brace was needed for the brace to trigger the recording requirement, Ruble said.

According to OSHA, a provision of the agency's recordkeeping rule, 29 C.F.R. 1904.7(b)(5)(ii)(F), declares that the use of orthopedic devices designed to immobilize parts of the body, such as wrist braces with rigid stays, is considered medical treatment beyond first aid.

However, OSHA also says that for treatment beyond first aid to qualify as recordable it must be “directed or recommended” by the employer or a medical professional.

In this case, Ruble said, when the worker visited an occupational health clinic, arranged for by the employer, the doctor said the brace wasn't necessary. The doctor also said that if the worker felt he was getting pain relief from the brace, he should continue to wear it.

Mixed Opinions

Unsure what OSHA's opinion would be on listing the injury in logs employers are required to keep, Ruble said, she contacted two OSHA regional offices last year. Both told her the injury wasn't recordable.

Ruble also wrote OSHA headquarters in November 2015. The agency responded six months later with an April 14 letter, saying the injury must be recorded.

Ruble said she was surprised that the OSHA headquarters decision didn't match the advice from the regional offices. “You could have knocked me over with a feather,” Ruble recalled.

The OSHA interpretation raises questions on whether other self-prescribed medical treatments trigger reporting requirements, even when a doctor concludes the treatments aren't needed, Ruble said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Bruce Rolfsen in Washington at brolfsen@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at lpearl@bna.com .

For More Information

The OSHA interpretation letter is available at http://src.bna.com/htJ.

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