Obama Admin: You Can File A Complaint Against Your Boss If You’re Injured Buying Flowers

Obama Admin: You Can File A Complaint Against Your Boss If You’re Injured Buying Flowers

Recently, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration responded to a very specific workplace injury scenario. Their response may surprise you.

“An employee returns to Atlanta on a morning from an out-of-town work trip,” read one workplace scenario submitted to OSHA. “The employee is not scheduled to work on Saturday. The employee leaves the Atlanta airport and decides that he will not take the direct route home, but instead will go to a nearby convenience store. The employee drives past the highway entrance that is his normal route home and drives to the convenience store. At the convenience store, the employee purchases gas, food for himself, and a flower for his wife. After leaving the store, the employee takes the surface street toward a highway that would take him home. The employee is involved in an auto accident and is injured. Is the accident work-related?”

Pretty specific scenario there. So, is flower-buying on a weekend covered by OSHA regulations?

“The accident as described in the scenario is work-related for OSHA recordkeeping purposes,” OSHA said.

“Injuries and illnesses that occur to an employee while on travel status are work-related if, at the time of the injury or illness, the employee was engaged in work activities ‘in the interest of the employer.’ See, Section 1904.5(b)(6).”

“Work-related activities begin when the employee leaves home, assuming the employee did not intend to report to his or her office prior to beginning the trip. If the employee first reports to the office, travel status begins when the employee leaves the office to begin the trip. Travel status ends once the employee returns to the point of origin of the trip, in your scenario the employee’s home. Travel for work is a work-related activity even if the travel occurs on a day the employee is not scheduled to work.”

Good thing flower-buying is covered. But not blindness (unless the eyeball falls out).

“If an employee were to suffer a work-related injury that resulted in the loss of sight, but the physical eye was still in the socket, would that require a call to OSHA informing the duty officer of the incident?” asked one worker in a letter to OSHA.

“No. Loss of sight without the physical removal of the eye is not a reportable event under the requirements in Section 1904.39. However, a case involving loss of sight that results in the in-patient hospitalization of the worker within 24 hours of the work-related incident is reportable,” OSHA replied.

“Is the loss of a tooth or teeth considered an amputation requiring a call to OSHA?” a worker asked.

“No,” OSHA replied. “The loss of a tooth is specifically excluded from the definition of ‘amputation’ found under 1904.39(b)(11): An amputation is the traumatic loss of a limb or other external body part. Amputations include a part, such as a limb or appendage that has been severed, cut off, amputated (either completely or partially); fingertip amputations with or without bone loss; medical amputations resulting from irreparable damage; amputations of body parts that have since been reattached.

“Amputations do not include avulsions (tissue torn away from the body), enucleations (removal of the eyeball), deglovings (skin torn away from the underlying tissue), scalpings (removal of the scalp), severed ears, or broken or chipped teeth.”

It’s very interesting that getting a tooth knocked out or going blind without losing your eye does not qualify as a reportable event under OSHA guidelines, but a car accident after a personal errand off the normal route home from a work trip does. Apparently this administration has a different understanding of “workplace injury” than common sense would dictate.

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