Are injuries work-related when employees take a personal detour?

Date Posted: 09/06/2022
injuries when a personal detour

OSHA says injuries that occur while employees are traveling in the interests of the employer are work-related, unless the injury occurs during a personal detour. Specifically, the regulation at 1904.5(b)(6) excludes injuries that occur “while the employee is on a personal detour from a reasonably direct route of travel (e.g., has taken a side trip for personal reasons).”

So, what exactly qualifies as a “side trip for personal reasons”?

First, OSHA clarified that simply stopping for gas or food is not a side trip. OSHA addressed a question involving a traveling employee whose flight landed and, on the drive home from the airport, he stopped at a convenience store for gas, food, and a flower for his wife. After leaving the store, he got injured in a car accident.

In a letter of interpretation dated February 12, 2015, OSHA said that stopping for gas wasn’t enough of a detour for personal reasons, and the route was still “reasonably direct” so the injury caused by the car accident was work-related. The employee was still traveling in the interest of the employer.

In that letter, OSHA further clarified that “Travel status ends once the employee returns to the point of origin of the trip, in your scenario the employee’s home.” Driving home from the airport was still “travel status” because that isn’t an ordinary commute to or from work.

Taking a side trip

OSHA gives examples of side trips such as taking a vacation or going on a sight-seeing excursion, taking a detour to visit relatives, doing some personal shopping, or some other purpose.

Again, just stopping for gas or meals is not enough of a detour. However, if an employee stopped by a grocery store on the way home from a business trip to restock the refrigerator, it is possible that injuries which occur at the store could be excluded.

Note, however, that the regulation excludes injuries that occur “while the employee is on a personal detour.” To continue the above example, an injury in the grocery store might be excluded, but once the employee gets back on the road, he or she has resumed traveling in the interest of the employer.

Similarly, suppose an employee driving 100 miles to visit a customer stops to visit family after 50 miles, then gets back on the road for the last 50 miles. The second half of the drive would be business travel, so if the employee got injured in a car accident, it would be a work-related injury.

How Safety Management Suite Can Help

Tracking work-related injuries can be challenging, even when you know which cases must be captured on the 300 Log. Sometimes the employer must revisit a previously recorded case to update the entry with new information. The Incident Center in the J. J. Keller® SAFETY MANAGEMENT SUITE helps you track recordables and other cases, sorting them by type to identify potential hazards.

E-mail Newsletter

Sign up to receive the weekly EHS Insider email newsletter for safety articles, news headlines, regulatory alerts, industry events, webcasts, and more.