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Q160 - Strong Sneeze

Question: 

An employee was in his office and sneezed. The sneeze significantly aggravated a pre-exiting back injury and a doctor recommended the employee stay at home for a week as well as physical therapy to recover. The employee's back had been previously injured while the employee was installing a deck at home. Is it recordable? 

Answer:

YES. Although the back injury was a pre-existing condition, it became recordable because the sneeze, is an event which occurred in the work environment significantly aggravated the injury and it resulted in a doctor's recommendation of days away from work. 

Letter of Interpretation: Under OSHA's recordkeeping system, normal body movements in the work environment, such as walking, bending down or sneezing, are "events" which trigger the presumption for work-relatedness if they are a discernible cause of an injury.

 

1904.5(a): 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.

1904.5(b)(3): How do I handle a case if it is not obvious whether the precipitating event or exposure occurred in the work environment or occurred away from work? In these situations, you must evaluate the employee's work duties and environment to decide whether or not one or more events or exposures in the work environment either caused or contributed to the resulting condition or significantly aggravated a pre-existing condition.

1904.5(b)(4): How do I know if an event or exposure in the work environment "significantly aggravated" a preexisting injury or illness? A preexisting injury or illness has been significantly aggravated, for purposes of OSHA injury and illness recordkeeping, when an event or exposure in the work environment results in any of the following:

1904.5(b)(4)(iv): Medical treatment in a case where no medical treatment was needed for the injury or illness before the workplace event or exposure, or a change in medical treatment was necessitated by the workplace event or exposure.