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How does OSHA determine if a worker injury is work-related?

Media outlets in Charlotte and other communities throughout North Carolina can be counted upon to report on a scaffolding fall, trench collapse or similar industrial accidents in which a worker injury occurs. Under such circumstances, there is little doubt that the injury was work-related, but classifying injuries as being caused by a work accident is not always so simple.

An injured worker may be entitled to workers' compensation benefits for lost wages, medical expenses and rehabilitation costs if the injury or illness is related to the individual's employment. Some accidents, such as falling debris or a coworker negligently operating machinery, might at first appear to be obvious examples of workplace accidents but the injury that results might not be classified as work-related.

OSHA defines a work-related illness or injury as one that is caused or aggravated by an occurrence or exposure to something in the workplace. OSHA presumes an injury to be work-related if it is caused by a workplace accident, but there are exceptions.

For example, if a company employee is visiting the workplace on his or her day off, such as an amusement park worker visiting the park with his or her family, an accident might not result in a work-related injury under OSHA guidelines. Likewise, an automobile accident in which an employee is injured while commuting to or from work would not be classified as work-related, but if the accident happens while the worker is performing a task on behalf of the employer, while using a personal vehicle, the classification could be different.

Determining whether a worker injury is work-related involves complex legal issues that are beyond the scope of this brief posting. The information contained in this blog is not intended to be relied upon as legal advice, which should only be sought from an attorney.

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