Written by J. Sundberg
We know that workplace injuries can contribute to increased insurance premiums. That’s reason enough to establish solid workplace safety programs. But in many cases, injuries can also lead to hefty fines dealt out by OSHA (Occupational Health and Safety Administration)—a million dollars or more in some industries.
Dr. Julie Parsons, Occupational Medicine Medical Director of Advanced Urgent Care & Occupational Medicine, has over 20 years’ experience in workers’ compensation. In her eyes, the workers’ compensation provider has two important jobs:
1. Providing the utmost care to each injured patient
2. Treating injuries such that they are not OSHA recordable, if possible
What is an OSHA-Recordable Injury?
An OSHA-recordable injury or illness is one that requires medical treatment beyond first aid. One that causes death, days away from work, restricted work, or loss of consciousness will also be considered “recordable.” The initial doctor visit after an injury for observation or diagnostics is not considered medical treatment beyond first aid—while a prescription of medication is.
Injuries that are OSHA-recordable can lead to fines that are often a crippling financial burden for the injured worker’s employer. That’s why it’s so important to avoid them.
While it is unethical for a medical provider to withhold necessary care or medication from an injured patient, the medical community has observed the consequences of over-prescription—including the opioid epidemic. When the injury can be cared for without becoming OSHA-recordable, it’s good for both the employer and the injured employee.
How Dr. Parsons Works to Avoid OSHA Recordables
According to Dr. Parsons, workplace injuries can be treated tactfully to avoid unnecessary recordables under OSHA guidelines while maintaining the highest standard of patient care.
When a minor injury occurs, another physician might prescribe medications, put the patient on work restrictions, or take them off work altogether. This causes the injury to become recordable, which can be damaging to the employer, and harmful to the recovery of the injured employee.
Avoiding Overprescription of Medication
Dr. Parsons believes it’s important to keep the employee working and off unnecessary medications, if possible.
“Studies show that patients have better outcomes and return to normal function more quickly if you keep them working,” Dr. Parsons explained. “One of the worst things you can do is take someone off work.”
She gave the example of a 20-year-old man who visited Advanced Urgent Care & Occupational Medicine after pulling a muscle in his back while at work. Dr. Parsons argues there’s no reason he couldn’t use ice or heat to ease pain and inflammation, and perform stretches to expedite his recovery.
“He could take some over-the-counter pain medicine, and then be re-evaluated rather quickly,” Dr. Parsons said. “Usually, he’s going to be back to almost 100% in a short period of time.”
Helping Employers Select Alternative Work Options
In cases where employees are a part of a larger workplace team, a provider can also recommend that the injured employee temporarily work in a different, less strenuous position or complete required training—still performing “full duty” work.
It’s helpful for a provider to have a good working relationship with employers. If the provider knows the nature of the jobs, they can comfortably recommend alternative work options for their patient.
“They might not be able to do all the jobs within the team, but they may be able to do one of them. That helps keep it non-recordable,” Parsons said. “We have a strong return-to-work philosophy at Advanced Urgent Care & Occupational Medicine, and a strong communication philosophy with employers and insurers.”
Medical providers have several OSHA-approved means to treat injuries while remaining non-recordable:
- Using a nonprescription medication at nonprescription strength. (For medications available in both prescription and nonprescription form, a recommendation by a physician or other licensed health care professional to use a nonprescription medication at prescription strength is considered medical treatment for record-keeping purposes.)
- Administering tetanus immunizations. (Other immunizations, such as Hepatitis B vaccine or rabies vaccine, are considered medical treatment.)
- Cleaning, flushing or soaking wounds on the surface of the skin.
- Using wound coverings such as bandages, Band-Aids™, gauze pads, or using butterfly bandages or Steri-Strips™. (Other wound closing devices such as sutures and staples are considered medical treatment.)
- Using hot or cold therapy.
- Using any nonrigid means of support, such as elastic bandages, wraps or nonrigid back belts. (Devices with rigid stays or other systems designed to immobilize parts of the body are considered medical treatment for record-keeping purposes.)
- Using temporary immobilization devices while transporting an accident victim (e.g., splints, slings, neck collars, back boards).
- Drilling of a fingernail or toenail to relieve pressure, or draining fluid from a blister.
- Using eye patches.
- Removing foreign bodies from the eye using only irrigation or a cotton swab.
- Removing splinters or foreign material from areas other than the eye by irrigation, tweezers, cotton swabs or other simple means.
- Using finger guards.
- Using massages. (Physical therapy or chiropractic treatment is considered medical treatment for record-keeping purposes.)
- Drinking fluids for relief of heat stress.
OSHA Sensitivity Means Attention to Detail
Often, medical providers are not vigilant when it comes to OSHA-sensitivity. It’s especially common in medical practices that don’t specialize in workers’ compensation injury treatment. Overly liberal treatment can be spell disaster employers who count on medical providers for quality care and assistance in avoiding unnecessary fines.
Dr. Parsons says that attention to detail is a workers’ compensation provider’s most important weapon when treating and evaluating workplace injuries:
“I review every single work comp patient’s chart, whether they’re my patient or not. I have taught the mid-level providers my style of communication, which is totally transparent with the employers and patients. I think we give a lot better care because details are not missed. We are very OSHA-sensitive,” Dr. Parsons said.
Make the Switch to OSHA-Sensitive Treatment Today
Advanced Urgent Care & Occupational Medicine has three convenient locations in Brighton, Northglenn and Fort Lupton, Colorado that are equipped to handle injury care with Dr. Parsons’ high standards for OSHA-sensitivity.
Learn how our experienced providers can minimize your costs associated with OSHA recordables and workers’ compensation insurance. Speak with one of our workplace health experts at 303-659-9700, or visit our Employer Services page now.