To qualify for workers’ compensation benefits, you must prove you have a work-related injury or illness. But if you already have pre-existing health conditions, this may be harder for you than for others. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines help define what is work-related and what isn’t, so let’s start there.
How OSHA Defines Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses
Fortunately, OSHA’s detailed guidelines explain what does and does not count as “work-related” for those filing workman’s comp claims. Let’s explore some examples that show these key differences in what counts and what doesn’t. First, an employer must find it a work-related injury or illness if a workplace event or exposure during working hours:
- caused or contributed to your injury or illness
- significantly aggravated a pre-existing injury or illness
The government defines work-related events or exposure as “the establishment and other locations where one or more employees are working or are present as a condition of their employment.” Your work environment includes physical locations as well as equipment or materials you must use to complete your own job tasks.
Situations That Don’t Count as Work-Related Injuries or Illnesses
Any workplace injury or illness not covered under workers’ compensation claims usually falls under OSHA’s exception list. We’ve listed helpful examples after each exception listed below.
Exception #1: You were visiting your workplace in a non-employee role when the injury/illness occurred
For example: You work waiting tables at a restaurant and take friends there to eat on your day off. While there, you slip on ice from a spilled drink and dislocate your arm. This injury is not work-related and therefore won’t qualify for workers’ comp benefits.
Exception #2: Your injury/illness symptoms begin while working, but the cause is not related to your job duties or a work-related event
For example: Your child gets sent home from school early with a fever. You also develop a fever several hours later at work, then test positive for influenza. While you initially felt sick at your job, your illness is clearly not work-related.
Exception #3: Your injury/illness happens while voluntarily participating in a wellness program or medical, fitness, or recreational activity held at your workplace
This exception applies to any activities employees often do in their workplaces, but are not job-related or required. Some example situations may include blood drives, physical exams, flu shots, exercise classes, etc. where all participation is 100% voluntary.
Exception #4: Your injury or illness happens after eating, drinking, or preparing your own personal food/drink in the workplace
For example: If you choke on a snack at work, it’s not a work-related injury. And if you cut your finger while slicing up an apple to eat on your break, that injury isn’t work-related. However, there’s one exception to this rule. If workplace contaminants in your food make you sick or you get food poisoning from employer-provided meals, they’re work-related illnesses.
Exception #5: Your injury or illness results solely from doing personal tasks unrelated to your job or outside your regular working hours
For example: You’re shaving in the work bathroom before your shift and accidentally cut yourself. Or, you’re straightening your hair after you clock out and burn your hand. While both happened in the workplace, these are not work-related injuries.
What About Injuries or Illnesses That Happen While Working From Home?
Working from home is more common now, which means you could get hurt on the job in your own house. Injuries and illnesses that happen while working remotely must meet certain requirements to qualify for workers’ comp. Any injury or illness directly related to completing your job duties is work-related. But if your home environment or setting directly causes your injury/illness, it will not qualify for workers’ comp.
OSHA examples of work-related injuries at home:
- You drop a heavy box of work documents at home and injure your foot. This case counts as work-related when applying for workers’ compensation.
- You’re altering a garment on your home sewing machine and get an infection after the needle punctures your fingernail. Since you own a tailoring business and need medical treatment, this counts as a work-related injury.
OSHA examples of at-home injuries that won’t qualify for workers’ comp benefits:
- You trip over your dog while rushing to answer a work call at home and sprain your ankle. This injury does not qualify for workers’ comp.
- You’re hospitalized for smoke inhalation after faulty wiring sparks a fire in your house while working from home. This is not a work-related injury.
You May Qualify for Legal Assistance
Still not sure if you qualify for workers’ compensation? It’s a good idea to speak to a lawyer before filing your workers’ comp claim. Our lawyers offer free, no-obligation consultations and give confidential answers to all your workers’ comp questions.
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