When employees work at home or travel for work, are injuries work-related?

Date Posted: 12/18/2023
business man and business woman walk together luggage on the public street, business travel

Remote work increased significantly in the last several years, raising questions about when an injury at home is work-related for the OSHA 300 Log. Whether injuries occur at home or during business travel, OSHA uses the same criteria for evaluating work-relatedness.

When employees work at home, injuries caused by the general home environment are not work-related and therefore not recordable. OSHA gives a few examples, saying that if someone tripped over the family dog while rushing to answer a business phone call, the injury is not work-related. However, if an employee dropped a box of company documents on their foot and got injured, that is work-related.

Remote work situations

OSHA answered a question about a salesperson who worked at home and carried a box of documents out to his car. The employee slipped on ice in his driveway and was injured. Even though the salesperson was performing a job task, OSHA said the ice was related to the home environment, so the injury was not work-related.

As another example, suppose an employee slipped and fell while carrying a company laptop down a stairway at home. Based on OSHA’s response above, this injury should also relate to the home environment, so it should not be work-related or recordable.

Conversely, remote workers could get ergonomic injuries, like carpel tunnel syndrome from using a computer, or back injuries from poor posture. OSHA hasn’t published anything on ergonomic conditions, but they are likely work-related. Using a computer is directly related to the job, not part of a general home environment.

Traveling situations

Injuries during job-related travel are work-related, but incidents during a normal commute are not work-related. OSHA doesn’t define a “normal commute” but if employees report to the same location every day, or even to different locations in the same city, the drive from home to work and back is a normal commute.

Travel between jobsites, or driving to another city for business, is work-related travel. For example, if an employee drives two hours to a facility that they visit only once or twice per month, that’s probably not a normal commute. If they’re injured in a car accident, the injury is likely work-related.

Some employees travel for business overnight. Once they check into a hotel, they establish a “home away from home” and most incidents won’t be work-related. Employers can apply the criteria for injuries while working at home. In short, determine if the injury was directly related to the job, or was caused by the “home” environment (the hotel environment). For example, if an employee is injured at the pool or in the exercise room, the injury is not work-related.

Meeting with clients or customers after hours also raises challenges. OSHA says that injuries while entertaining clients are considered work-related only if the employee engaged in the activity “at the direction of the employer.” Injuries at a business lunch could be work-related, unless an exception applies (like choking on food). However, some employers encourage salespeople to meet with clients after hours, even if not specifically directing them to do so. OSHA doesn’t offer much guidance, but the 2001 Federal Register preamble says that if an employee goes out for an evening of entertainment with friends, and some happen to be clients, the employee is not acting under the direction of the employer.

How Safety Management Suite Can Help

Safety Topic Webcasts

Keeping accurate 300 Logs is a challenge. You don’t want to record incidents unless they meet the recording criteria, but you don’t want to miss work-related cases either. To learn more about recordable injuries, watch our archived webcast “Top 10 OSHA Injury Recordkeeping Challenges: Common questions about the OSHA 300 Log” from Thursday, December 28, 2023. Start a trial or log in to watch this and other archived webcasts.

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