As most employers are aware, OSHA implemented new injury reporting requirements under 29 CFR Section 1904.39 effective at the beginning on this year.

One requirement is that employers must now report to OSHA within 24 hours all work-related amputations and losses of an eye. However the question of what exactly constitutes an “amputation” or “loss of an eye” has been raised. OSHA recently issued an Interpretative Guidance, titled “Clarification of the New Reporting Requirements,” which addresses this question.

The interpretation answers the question “how do you distinguish between an amputation and an avulsion?” For discussion purposes, The American Heritage® Medical Dictionary defines an  avulsion as “the forcible tearing away of a body part by trauma or surgery.” OSHA’s Interpretation indicated that “examples of avulsion that do not need to be reported include deglovings, scalpings, fingernail and toenail removal, eyelid removal, loss of a tooth, and severed ears.” It reminds employers that they are required to report amputations to OSHA when they learn that the reportable event occurred. If the tip of the finger is amputated, the work-related event must be reported. “An amputation does not require loss of bone.”

Concerning the loss of sight, OSHA indicates that the loss of an eye is the physical removal of the eye, including enucleation and evisceration. “Loss of sight without the removal of the eye is not reportable under the requirements of section 1904.39.” However, a case involving loss of sight that results in the in-patient hospitalization of the worker within 24 hours of the work-related incident is reportable.

As the language of this rule, and the Interpretation reveals, this may be a difficult issue to deal with. Certainly a case-by-case analysis is necessary — which is especially problematic given the short reporting deadline. Employers are encouraged to be very careful with and be sure to document any analysis prepared in determining whether to report, or not.