Under the Recordkeeping regulation of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), covered employers must prepare and maintain records of serious occupational injuries and illnesses. That regulation sets forth the injuries that must be recorded:

You must consider an injury or illness to meet the general recording criteria, and therefore to be recordable, if it results in any of the following: death, days away from work, restricted work or transfer to another job, medical treatment beyond first aid, or loss of consciousness.

On November 4, 2015 the OSHA released an interpretation letter providing clarification – requested by one employer – as to whether an employee’s laceration and subsequent fainting at the sight of blood constituted a “recordable event” under the relevant regulation. The direction provided in that letter was that while the minor laceration alone, which required only a Band-Aid, was not reportable, the subsequent “loss of consciousness” made the entire event recordable.

Here’s what happened:

  • An employee scratched his index finger on a piece of equipment at work.
  • As he walked to an on-site first-aid station, he met a co-worker who offered to put a Band-Aid on the cut.
  • As the co-worker applied the Band-Aid, the injured employee looked at the cut, on which there was a small amount of blood.
  • The injured employee became light-headed and fainted at the sight of his own blood, losing consciousness for s brief period of time.
  • No further first-aid or medical treatment was necessary or rendered.

Here’s what OSHA said:

Normally, an injury or illness need not be recorded if it is resolved by the use of first aid. Therefore, a minor laceration resolved by applying a Band-Aid typically would not be recordable. However, OSHA regulations include a provision that a work-related injury or illness must be recorded if it results in a loss of consciousness, regardless of the length of time the employee remains unconscious.

In this scenario, the employee fainted as a result of the laceration and, according to the OSHA, “employers must record every work-related injury or illness if a worker becomes unconscious.” Therefore, the incident met the general recording criteria and must be recorded.

Here’s what it means:

According to this letter, if an individual loses consciousness as a result of a workplace injury (as opposed to a medical condition like epilepsy, asthma, etc), even if the loss of consciousness is simply a reaction to the injury, the entire event is recordable.

OSHA requirements are set by statute and attendant regulations. While interpretation letters do not create additional law or obligations, they often are used as support for administrative and court decisions and, therefore, should be viewed with serious attention.