OSHA RECORDKEEPING & REPORTING: When Are Illnesses/Injuries “New Cases”

Date First Published on SafetySmart Compliance: April 19th, 2012
Topics: Recordkeeping |

 

One of the general criteria that makes an injury/illness recordable is whether it’s deemed a “new case” (under Section 1904.6). Here’s an overview of the requirements and how to determine if an injury or illness is, in fact, a new case.

What Makes an Injury/Illness a New Case

An injury or illness is considered a new case under one of 2 conditions. Either:

  • The employee hasn’t previously experienced a recorded injury or illness of the same type that affects the same part of the body; or
  • The employee did previously experience a recorded injury or illness of the same type that affected the same part of the body but had recovered completely (all signs and symptoms had disappeared) from the previous injury or illness and an event or exposure in the work environment caused the signs or symptoms to reappear.

Reacting to Signs and Symptoms

You must treat each episode as a new case when an employee experiences the signs or symptoms of an injury or illness as a result of an event or exposure in the workplace, e.g., an episode of occupational asthma.

But you don’t need to consider each recurrence of signs or symptoms to be a new case when an employee experiences the signs or symptoms of a chronic work-related illness. You need only record the case once.

What “Recovered Completely” Means

 

OSHA has provided fairly specific guidance on how to determine if an employee has “recovered completely” such as to make signs and symptoms of what she recovered from recordable as a new case.

According to OSHA, an employee has “recovered completely” from a previous injury or illness, when she is fully healed or cured. The employer must use its best judgment, says OSHA, based on factors such as the passage of time since the symptoms last occurred and the physical appearance of the affected part of the body.

Thus, for example, if the signs and symptoms of a previous injury disappear for a day only to reappear the following day, it’s strong evidence the injury hasn’t properly healed. The employer may, but isn’t required to, consult a physician or other licensed health care provider for help.

 

Following Physician Advice

The OSHA rules require you to follow the advice of a physician or other licensed health care professional about whether the case is a new case or recurrence (if you decide to ask a physician or professional).

If you get recommendations from 2 or more physicians or other licensed health care professionals, you must base new case determinations upon the recommendation you think is the most authoritative, best documented or best reasoned if. Factors in making this determination may include whether:

  • Examination of employee was in person or just a review of documents;
  • Examinations were conducted on the same day;
  • The employee was subjected to additional events or exposures between the examinations; and
  • Medical treatment, restricted work activity or days away from work occurred between the examinations.

 

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