In an April 2016 Interpretation Letter recently made publically available, OSHA responded to an inquiry about whether an employee’s self-treatment of wrist pain constituted medical treatment beyond first aid for recordkeeping purposes. The scenario at issue involved an employee who bought and used a rigid wrist brace due to experiencing wrist pain after working at a computer for a number of hours. Later, when the employee saw a doctor at the occupational health clinic, the doctor determined that the brace was not necessary, but recommended that the employee continue to wear the brace if the employee felt it was relieving his pain.
In response, OSHA stated that a provision of the recordkeeping rule, 29 C.F.R. § 1904.7(b)(5)(ii)(F), provides that the use of orthopedic devices designed to immobilize parts of the body, such as wrist braces with rigid stays, are considered medical treatment beyond first aid. Although self-treatment or self-medication by an employee generally does not constitute medical treatment, the recordkeeping criteria are met if a treatment is “directed or recommended by the employer or a health care professional.” In this particular situation, OSHA determined that the doctor’s recommendation to the employee to continue wearing the brace if it was relieving his pain constituted a treatment recommendation by a health care professional and, therefore, the injury was a recordable injury. The OSHA interpretation raises questions as to whether other self-treatment or self-medication by an employee could trigger reporting requirements even if a medical professional ultimately concludes that the treatment or medication is unnecessary.