If you’ve never heard of OSHA's letters of interpretation or if you have heard and you aren’t quite sure what they are, this post is for you.
OSHA Standard Interpretations are letters or memos written in response to public inquiries or field office inquiries regarding how some aspect of or terminology in an OSHA standard or regulation is to be interpreted and enforced by the Agency. These letters provide guidance to clarify the application of an established OSHA standard, policy, or procedure.
OSHA requirements are set by statute, standards and regulations. The interpretation letters explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances, but they cannot create additional employer obligations.
You can find a complete list of all the letters here.
In today's video, Brian Boyle, PT/DPT, talks about OSHA Letters of Interpretation, and highlights a couple of examples in which a provider could inadvertently make what they intended to be a prevention session a treatment session all because they did not understand the prevention guidelines.
In the first instance, many physical therapy clinics have ice compression machines to help with pain control and swelling. The therapist would apply the device to the desired painful area of the employee and the employee would enjoy the benefits of ice and compression. The problem with this however is that while ice is specifically listed under the first aid prevention guidelines, air compression is not, and therefore anything falling outside of what is listed would be considered “treatment” and would therefore make the case a recordable now that treatment was administered. OSHA issued a standard interpretation in regard to standard 1904.7(b)(5)(ii) in which this was outlined.
In the second instance, a provider who takes a rigid brace, removed the metal stays that make the brace rigid, and applied this brace without the stays to an employee would in theory be applying a “non-rigid” brace and it should be okay under the OSHA prevention guidelines. While OSHA does specifically list “non-rigid” braces as prevention, the problem comes in when you consider the fact that this brace started off as rigid and was made “non-rigid” by the provider. OSHA considers this to be clinical judgement that was used by the provider to determine that the rigid stays should be removed and therefore would fall under treatment. OSHA issued a standard interpretation in regard to standard 1904.7(b)(5)(ii)(F) in which this was outlined as well.
These are important distinctions to be made and in both cases, the actions of the provider by not understanding the guidelines would have made a simple prevention only case a recordable injury just because of the type of care they provided.
That’s where WorkWell can help. At WorkWell, we help you take the guesswork out of the first aid prevention guidelines. Our providers are trained in OSHA compliance and are experts in musculoskeletal injuries as well.