The United States Department of Labor defines an injury or illness as work-related when it’s due to an event or an exposure in the work environment which either caused or significantly contributed to the injury or illness.
It’s simple enough to define when an accident occurs. For example, if a butcher cuts their finger while slicing meat, it’s a classic work-related injury. Similarly, an office worker who spends most of their time typing at a computer may experience repetitive strain injury, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, as a result of doing the job over a long period of time.
While we may tend to think of work-related injuries happening at the workplace, such as a factory or office, injuries can also happen on the job but outside the area controlled by the employer. For instance, a delivery driver injured in a motor vehicle accident while performing their work duties is in their work environment.
Similarly, as in the example of carpal tunnel syndrome, you may first experience symptoms of pain and loss of mobility at home, but the condition itself is due to your work environment.
Yes. There are a number of circumstances where a person may be at a work location, but an injury or illness that begins there is not considered work-related. This distinction becomes important when workers’ compensation is involved.
It’s not unusual for people to be at their work location but not working. You might be picking up a co-worker to socialize, for instance. If something happens to you while you’re at the workplace but not in a work role, that incident might not be considered work-related.
As another example, if you’ve suffered from asthma all your life, and your work environment aggravates your condition, it’s not a work-related illness unless it significantly increases the symptoms of your asthma. If, however, your work environment causes you to experience asthma symptoms that you’ve never previously had, then it’s a work-related issue.
These on-the-job connections between workplace and health are a reason it’s important to seek treatment from caregivers who are experienced with work-related injuries and illnesses, such as Occupational Medicine of the Rockies.
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