Archive Notice - OSHA Archive

NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and may no longer represent OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.

OSHA requirements are set by statute, standards and regulations. Our interpretation letters explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances, but they cannot create additional employer obligations. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of the requirements discussed. Note that our enforcement guidance may be affected by changes to OSHA rules. Also, from time to time we update our guidance in response to new information. To keep apprised of such developments, you can consult OSHA's website at

September 2, 1993

Ms. Kathy Lea
Government Affairs
and Communications Assistant
Voluntary Protection Programs
Participant's Association
6845 Elm Street,
Suite 500
McLean, Virginia 22101

Dear Ms. Lea:

Thank you for your inquiry of June 15, requesting information on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standard at 29 CFR 1910.151(b). You specifically asked for definitions of the terms "near proximity" and "serious injury".

The following is OSHA's current guidance with respect to "near proximity": In areas where accidents resulting in suffocation, severe bleeding, or other life threatening injury or illness can be expected, "near proximity" is interpreted as the ability to respond and start to administer first aid within 3 to 4 minutes. In other circumstances, i.e., where a life-threatening injury is an unlikely outcome of an accident, a longer response time, such as 15 minutes, is acceptable.

Where an employer complies with 29 CFR 1910.151(b), as stated above, but has areas where the eyes or body of any person may be exposed to injurious corrosive materials, the employer must also comply with 29 CFR 1910.151(c).

Following are the aspects related to injuries from the definition of "serious physical harm" taken from OSHA's Field Operations Manual:

1 Impairment of the body in which part of the body is made functionally useless or is substantially reduced in efficiency on or off the job. Such impairment may be permanent or temporary, chronic or acute. Injuries involving such impairment would usually require treatment by a medical doctor. Examples of injuries which constitute such harm include:

a Amputation (loss of all or part of a bodily appendage which includes the loss of bone).

b Concussion.

c Crushing (internal, even through skin surface may be intact).

d Fracture (simple or compound).

e Burns or scald, including electric and chemical burns.

f Cut, laceration, or puncture involving significant bleeding and/or requiring suturing.

We appreciate your interest in employee safety and health. If we can be of further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us.


Roger A. Clark, Director
Directorate of Compliance Programs