An employer asked OSHA whether it had to record a new case on the OSHA 300 Log when an employee used a rescue inhaler for asthma attacks during repeated exposure to a fragrance in the workplace. OSHA responded that only the first incident was recordable; the subsequent inhaler uses were a continuation of the same treatment for the same medical condition.
The response appears in a letter of interpretation dated March 17, 2021, Determining the recordability of an illness when an employee uses a rescue inhaler following an exposure in the work place.
Specifically, the employer asked about an employee with non-occupational asthma who developed a sensitivity to certain fragrances in the workplace. Upon exposure, the employee used a rescue inhaler, which counts as medical treatment beyond first aid.
The workplace exposure was a significant aggravation of a pre-existing condition, and is therefore a work-related case that must be recorded on the 300 Log.
The employer then asked whether every use of the rescue inhaler due to same fragrance exposure must be counted as a new case, or if only the first incident had to be recorded. In response, OSHA noted that a “new case” is defined in 1904.6 to include situations where:
(1) The employee has not previously experienced a recorded injury or illness of the same type that affects the same part of the body, or
(2) The employee previously experienced a recorded injury or illness of the same type that affected the same part of the body but had recovered completely (all signs and symptoms had disappeared) from the previous injury or illness and an event or exposure in the work environment caused the signs or symptoms to reappear.
Finally, OSHA stated that “Once a significant aggravation of a pre-existing condition has been recorded, subsequent exposures and medical treatment do not need to be recorded, unless a change in medical treatment is necessitated to treat a work-related exposure.”
In short, the subsequent uses of the rescue inhaler were not “new cases” because the employee still had the pre-existing condition, which was triggered by the same workplace exposure, and was treated the same way by using the inhaler.
The answers to compliance questions aren’t always clear in the regulations, but many issues are clarified in OSHA interpretations or other guidance. In addition to regulatory assistance, our experts can often help you find related guidance from the many pages of published information. Submit your question through the Expert Help tool in the J. J. Keller® SAFETY MANAGEMENT SUITE and our experts will provide a response within one business day.