Are Random Acts of Violence Recordable OSHA Injuries?

According to a recent OSHA standard interpretation letter, probably yes. In the May 17, 2023 letter, an employee drove the company vehicle on a public roadway between service calls. As the employee approached a car accident, the driver who caused the accident entered the company’s vehicle, shot the employee, stole the vehicle, and fled the scene. There was no evidence that the employee did anything to provoke the attacker. The employer subsequently learned that the attacker had been in the midst of a serial crime spree at the time of the accident.

In finding that the employee’s injuries were work-related and thus recordable, OSHA opined that the employee was engaged in work activities “in the interest of the employer,” e.g., traveling to and from customer contacts. OSHA further stated other similar activities “in the interest of the employer” would include conducting job tasks and entertaining or being entertained to transact, discuss, or promote businesses. However, OSHA did acknowledge that the exceptions listed in the recordkeeping rule could potentially apply, e.g., an employee who is injured by a violent act after he arrives at work early to use the company conference room for a civil club meeting. 

Employers are also reminded that they are required to notify OSHA when an employee is killed on the job or suffers a work-related hospitalization, amputation, or loss of an eye. The former must be reported within 8 hours and the latter within 24 hours.

Of course, the fact that an injury may be recordable or that an affirmative injury notification to OSHA is required does not mean that the circumstances should result in an inspection and/or citation. Under the facts above, there is little doubt that OSHA would not be justified in issuing a general duty citation. However, employers should be aware that OSHA has recently displayed aggressive enforcement tactics with respect to workplace violence and should be prepared for a potential inspection following a serious workplace violence incident.

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