Mysterious Allergic Reaction

Question: An employee working as a janitor in a laboratory facility suddenly falls ill. His doctor believes it is an allergic reaction to something in the work environment. There are no known exposures despite air sampling and a thorough investigation. Is it recordable?

Answer: YES. Even though it is not clear what caused the reaction, due to OSHA's presumption of work-relatedness, the injury must be presumed to be caused by work because it happened in the work environment. Further, the doctor's opinion is that it was caused by the work environment. It is also possible that the employee became sensitized to a chemical at work, such as a cleaning agent, that has not affected the employee previously.

1904.5(a): Basic requirement. You 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 or significantly aggravated a pre-existing injury or illness. Work-relatedness is presumed for injuries and illnesses resulting from events or exposures occurring in the work environment, unless an exception in §1904.5(b)(2) specifically applies