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NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and may no longer represent OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.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 8, 1997

Jack Bonczynski
Safety/Risk Manager
Exxon Company USA
Bayttown, TX 77520

Dear Mr. Bonczynski:

This is in response to your request for interpretation of several incidents of apparent food-related illnesses that are currently being reported on the OSHA 200 logs at three different Exxon sites in Texas. Your request was forwarded to my office by the Houston North Area Office. Please excuse the delay in our response. I will respond by citing the Recordkeeping Guidelines for Occupational Injuries and Illnesses by page and Q&A number(s) whenever possible.

Work relationship is established under the OSHA recordkeeping system when the injury or illness results from an event or exposure in the work environment. The work environment is primarily composed of: (1) The employer's premises and (2) other locations where employees are engaged in work-related activities or are present as a condition of their employment. The nature of the activity which the employee is engaged in at the time of the event or exposure, the degree of employer control over the employee's activity, the preventability of the incident, or the concept of fault do not affect the determination (Page 32, C and Page 34, C-7).

In Question C-7 on Page 34, the Recordkeeping Guidelines states that, "The general rule is that all injuries and illnesses which result from events or exposures occurring to employees on the employer's premises are presumed to be work related....There are cases which occur on the employer's premises that do not seem to have anything to do with the work, but must still be recorded to maintain the simplicity of the recording criteria....These are included to keep relatively simple recording boundaries necessary for maintaining a workable system which can be used by the 5 million employers and 75 million employees subject to the recordkeeping regulations." Since the employees were required to attend the on-premises business meeting at which lunch was served, the illnesses resulting are work related.

The instructions on the back of the OSHA No. 200 form refer to recording illnesses which were "diagnosed or recognized." As stated on Page 39 of the Recordkeeping Guidelines, "Therefore, for OSHA recordkeeping purposes occupational illnesses include any abnormal condition or disorder, other than one resulting from an occupational injury, caused by exposure to environmental factors associated with employment. Illness exposures ultimately result in conditions of a chemical, physical, biological, or psychological nature" (See also, Page 40, E-4).

As indicated on Page 40 of the Recordkeeping Guidelines, "...where the occupational cause is not direct and apparent, it may be difficult to determine accurately whether an employee's illness is occupational in nature. In these situations, it may help employers to ask the following questions:


a. Has an illness condition clearly been established?

b. Does it appear that the illness resulted from, or was aggravated by, suspected agents or other conditions in the work environment?

c. Are these suspected agents present (or have they been present) in the work environment?

d. Was the ill employee exposed to these agents in the work environment?

e. Was the exposure to a sufficient degree and/or duration to result in the illness condition?

f. Was the illness attributable solely to a nonoccupational exposure? (Emphasis added)"

It appears from the facts at hand that whether or not the illnesses were caused by a bacteria or a virus, the cause was attributable to an event or exposure that took place on the employers' premises and were work related. These work related illnesses are therefore recordable.

I hope you find this information useful. If you have any further questions, please contact us at Area Code: (202) 219-6463.


Bob Whitmore
Division of Recordkeeping Requirements