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Injuries, Illnesses, and Fatalities

BLS OSH Definitions

An injury or illness is considered by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to be work-related if an event or exposure in the work environment either caused or contributed to the resulting condition or significantly aggravated a pre-existing condition.

Recordable cases include work-related injuries and illnesses that result in:

  • Death
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Days away from work
  • Restricted work activity or job transfer
  • Medical treatment (beyond first aid)
  • Significant work related injuries or illnesses that are diagnosed by a physician or other licensed health care professional. These include any work related case involving cancer, chronic irreversible disease, a fractured or cracked bone, or a punctured eardrum.
  • Additional criteria that can result in a recordable case include:
    • Any needlestick injury or cut from a sharp object that is contaminated with another person's blood or other potentially infectious material.
    • Any case requiring an employee to be medically removed under the requirements of an OSHA health standard.
    • Tuberculosis infection as evidenced by a positive skin test or diagnosis by a physician or other licensed health care professional after exposure to a known case of active tuberculosis.
    • An employee's hearing test (audiogram) reveals 1) that the employee has experienced a Standard Threshold Shift (STS) in hearing in one or both ears (averaged at 2000, 3000, and 4000 Hz) and 2) the employee's total hearing level is 25 decibels (dB) or more above the audiometric zero (also averaged at 2000, 3000, and 4000 Hz) in the same ear(s) as the STS.

Days away from work, days of restricted work activity or job transfer (DART) are cases that involve days away from work, or days of restricted work activity or job transfer, or both.

  1. Cases involving days away from work are cases requiring at least one day away from work with or without days of job transfer or restriction.
  2. Job transfer or restriction cases occur when, as a result of a work-related injury or illness, an employer or health care professional keeps, or recommends keeping an employee from doing the routine functions of his or her job or from working the full workday that the employee would have been scheduled to work before the injury or illness occurred.

Other recordable cases are recordable cases that do not involve death, days away from work or days of restricted work activity or job transfer.

Incidence rate is the number of injuries and/or illnesses per 100 full-time workers and were calculated as: (N/EH) X 200,000 where:

  • N = number of injuries and/or illnesses
  • EH = total hours worked by all employees during the calendar year
  • 200,000 = base for 100 full-time equivalent workers (working 40 hours per week, 50 weeks per year).

Occupational injury is any wound or damage to the body resulting from an event in the work environment.

Occupational illnesses

Skin diseases or disorders are illnesses involving the worker's skin that are caused by work exposure to chemicals, plants or other substances. Examples: Contact dermatitis, eczema, or rash caused by primary irritants and sensitizers or poisonous plants; oil acne; friction blisters, chrome ulcers; inflammation of the skin.

Respiratory conditions are illnesses associated with breathing hazardous biological agents, chemicals, dust, gases, vapors, or fumes at work. Examples: Silicosis, asbestosis, pneumonitis, pharyngitis, rhinitis or acute congestion; farmer's lung, beryllium disease, tuberculosis, occupational asthma, reactive airways dysfunction syndrome (RADS), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), hypersensitivity pneumonitis, toxic inhalation injury, such as metal fume fever, chronic obstructive bronchitis and other pneumoconioses.

Poisoning includes disorders evidenced by abnormal concentrations of toxic substances in blood, other tissues, other bodily fluids, or the breath that are caused by the ingestion or absorption of toxic substances into the body. Examples: Poisoning by lead, mercury, cadmium, arsenic, or other metals; poisoning by carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulfide, or other gases; poisoning by benzene, benzol, carbon tetrachloride, or other organic solvents; poisoning by insecticide sprays such as parathion or lead arsenate; poisoning by other chemicals such as formaldehyde.

Hearing loss Noise-induced hearing loss for recordkeeping purposes is a change in hearing threshold relative to the baseline audiogram of an average of 10 dB or more in either ear at 2000, 3000, and 4000 hertz and the employee's total hearing level is 25 decibels (dB) or more above the audiometric zero (also averaged at 2000, 3000, and 4000 hertz) in the same ear(s).

All other occupational illnesses Examples: Heatstroke, sunstroke, heat exhaustion, heat stress and other effects of environmental heat; freezing, frostbite, and other effects of exposure to low temperatures; decompression sickness; effects of ionizing radiation (isotopes, x-rays, radium); effects of nonionizing radiation (welding flash, ultra-violet rays, lasers); anthrax; bloodborne pathogenic diseases such as AIDS, HIV, hepatitis B or hepatitis C; brucellosis; malignant or benign tumors; histoplasmosis; coccidioidomycosis.

Case Characteristics

Nature of injury or illness names the principal physical characteristic of a disabling condition, such as sprain/strain, cut/laceration, or carpal tunnel syndrome.

Part of body affected is directly linked to the nature of injury or illness cited, for example, back sprain, finger cut, or wrist and carpal tunnel syndrome.

Source and secondary source of injury or illness identify the objects, substances, equipment, and other factors that were responsible for the injury or illness incurred by the worker or that precipitated the event or exposure. Examples are a heavy box, a toxic substance, fire/flame, and bodily motion of injured/ill worker.

Event or exposure signifies the manner in which the injury or illness was produced or inflicted, for example, overexertion while lifting or fall from ladder.

Median days away from work is the measure used to summarize the varying lengths of absences from work among the cases with days away from work. Half the cases involved more days and half involved less days than a specified median.

(2011 and forward) Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) include cases where the nature of the injury or illness is pinched nerve; herniated disc; meniscus tear; sprains, strains, tears; hernia (traumatic and nontraumatic); pain, swelling, and numbness; carpal or tarsal tunnel syndrome; Raynaud's syndrome or phenomenon; musculoskeletal system and connective tissue diseases and disorders, when the event or exposure leading to the injury or illness is overexertion and bodily reaction, unspecified; overexertion involving outside sources; repetitive motion involving microtasks; other and multiple exertions or bodily reactions; and rubbed, abraded, or jarred by vibration.

(2010 and prior) Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs) include cases where the nature of the injury or illness is sprains, strains, tears; back pain, hurt back; soreness, pain, hurt, except the back; carpal tunnel syndrome; hernia; or musculoskeletal system and connective tissue diseases and disorders, when the event or exposure leading to the injury or illness is bodily reaction/bending, climbing, crawling, reaching, twisting; overexertion; or repetition. Cases of Raynaud’s phenomenon, tarsal tunnel syndrome, and herniated spinal discs are not included. Although they may be considered MSDs, the survey classifies these injuries and illnesses in categories that also include non-MSD cases.


Last Modified Date: September 7, 2016