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OSHA Incident Classifications

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) administers all regulations and guidelines for workplace safety and health in the United States. The enforcement and monitoring of these regulations is left to the individual states under their own safety regulations, and 27 states have state OSHA plans in place.

OSHA provides specific incident classifications to define the type and degree of injury or illness that must be reported and monitored. These classifications must be followed by each state OSHA plan.

Basic Outline of OSHA Incident Classifications

The federal OSHA standards apply to four types of industries: maritime, agricultural, construction, and general industry. One part of these standards requires employers to keep logs and records of injury and illness incidents for each calendar year. Exceptions to this requirement are companies with 10 employees or fewer and those industries that are classified as "low hazard," including automobile dealers, apparel and accessory stores, eating and drinking establishments, and most finance and insurance businesses. Some service industries are also exempt from this requirement, such as business and personal services, medical and dental offices, and organisations in the legal and educational fields. All employers are required to report incidents that result in a death or the hospitalisation of three or more employees.

Incidents of injury or illness that must be recorded include death; those that result in days off from work, job transfers or restricted work activities; loss of consciousness; and any medical treatment beyond basic first aid. Employers must record any incident occurring on the job that results in a medically diagnosed chronic irreversible disease, cancer, punctured eardrum, or fractured or broken bone. Other incident classifications that must be recorded include being stuck by a needle, having to be removed from the workplace according to OSHA standards, cases of work-related hearing loss, and medically diagnosed tuberculosis infections that occur after the presence of tuberculosis is reported or recorded at a job site.

Injury Incident Classifications

Serious injuries and deaths resulting from on-the-job incidents are one of the major concerns under OSHA regulations. One category of these types of injuries is known as "fatality/catastrophe", and a 1991 OSHA report focused on these types of incidents caused by vehicle-mounted elevated or rotating platforms. The incident classifications covered in this report are defined by the human activity involved at the time of the incident, the operating status of the equipment, and other environmental factors that contributed to the incident. The incident classifications are further broken down into four separate categories: operating procedures, equipment/material/facility factors, environmental conditions, and other factors. Operating procedures refers to employers or employees not following OSHA-prescribed safety procedures, including ignoring safety methods and not wearing protective gear or securing and safeguarding the work area. Equipment and material factors include malfunctions in machinery, structural collapses, and hazardous materials incidents. Environmental conditions refers to natural elements such as rain, snow, strong winds, or other weather-related conditions that lead to an incident. Other factors include any type of contributing effect that is not specifically defined by the other three incident classifications.

Special Incident Classifications

The concern in recent years over blood-borne diseases such as hepatitis and HIV is reflected in specialised OSHA incident classifications for these pathogens. These qualifications fall under Title 29, Subsection 1910.1030 of the Code of Federal Regulations.

The University of North Carolina at Wilmington addresses these standards by issuing an exposure plan for workplace incidents concerning infections and injuries related to blood contact. The plan identifies at-risk occupations that frequently place employees in situations where exposure by way of needle-sticks, open wounds, or other injuries result in possible infection from contact with blood or other bodily fluids. Some of these occupations include law enforcement officers, health-care workers, athletic trainers, construction workers, and research laboratory workers.

One aspect of training for any employee in one of these at-risk occupations is learning about the modes of transmission for bloodborne pathogens such as open wounds, mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, and working with or around containers or storage facilities for these substances. Special incident reporting and response is recommended by the university as well, including specific medical treatment and post-treatment observation due to the characteristics of long-term infectious symptoms resulting from bloodborne pathogens.