Q: We have a number of employees who work at home. For purposes of OSHA illness and injury recordkeeping, how do I decide if an at-home injury is work related?
A: Injuries and illnesses that occur at home will be considered work-related if they occur while the employee is performing work for pay in the home and they are directly related to the performance of work rather than to the general home environment or setting. For example, if an employee drops a box of work documents on his foot, the injury is work related.
If an employee’s fingernail is punctured by a needle from a sewing machine used to perform garment work at home, becomes infected and requires medical treatment, the injury is considered work related.
However, if an employee is injured because she trips on the family dog while rushing to answer a work-related phone call, the case is not work related. Similarly, if an employee working at home receives a shock because of faulty home wiring, the injury is not considered work related.
Q: One of our employees is refusing to wear his safety glasses, although we require the glasses to be worn for safety reasons by all employees in his job classification. What should we do? Can we get him to sign a waiver that it’s his choice not to wear the glasses?
A: A waiver is not an option when it comes to compulsory safety equipment. It’s an employer’s duty to designate what safety equipment needs to be worn. Once those rules have been set up, they need to be enforced through warnings and disciplinary action. If the employee’s failure to wear the safety glasses causes him or one of his co-workers to be injured on the job, a waiver would do little to protect you from OSHA.
Q: One of our employees was injured at work and was given first aid by our company nurse. Must this be recorded on our OSHA 300 form?
A: According to OSHA guidelines, the following types of injuries or illnesses must be recorded: all work-related deaths, injuries and illnesses (other than minor injuries requiring only first aid treatment or no medical treatment); incidents involving loss of consciousness or restrictions placed on work or motion; and injuries resulting in transfers to other jobs.
The most frequent mistake made by employers is recording an injury simply because the employee was treated by a medical professional. It is the nature of the treatment that determines what is recordable. If the treatment received by this employee was first aid only, and did not involve one of the above factors, the incident need not be recorded on your OSHA 300 form.
Q: One of our employees told her supervisor that she thinks she has a contagious medical condition. What should we do?
A: Since the employee opened the door on the subject, it would be acceptable to ask her to see her doctor and have the doctor evaluate whether or not she should be at work. If the doctor says she should not be at work, you can ask her to stay home. She could use accrued time if she has any, or you could decide to pay her. Depending on her job, she might be able to continue working at home for a time. If you have 50 or more employees, she may also have rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act.
Q: Does our company have to have someone on site capable of providing first aid?
A: Employers are required to provide “adequately trained” first-aid personnel, unless a hospital, clinic or infirmary is “in near proximity” to the work site. According to OSHA, “near proximity” means within five miles or five minutes of the work site. One or more employees should be trained so that coverage is always available. Other workers should know who the first-aid responders are and how to contact them. All employers must also make a first-aid kit available at the work site. The contents must be determined in consultation with a physician. For more information on first-aid training courses, contact the nearest chapter of the American Red Cross.
Q: Part of our warehouse sometimes gets quite hot in the summer. Is there a maximum temperature at which employees must be sent home?
A: If the temperature gets high enough to cause physical injury — for example, if an employee passes out — that would be illegal. Neither state law nor federal OSHA regulations set a specific maximum temperature that should be considered injurious to employees’ health.
As a practical matter, if you anticipate that the work site might be unusually warm, it’s a good idea to have plenty of liquids around for employees to drink and fans on to circulate the air. You could also encourage employees to take extra breaks.