Injuries in Parking Lots May be Considered Work-Related under the Colorado Workers’ Compensation Act while at Same Time Not OSHA Reportable

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was created to “assure safe and healthy working conditions” for employees by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education, and assistance.  One of the factors that must be evaluated for purposes of OSHA record keeping is whether the employee’s injury, fatality, or illness is “work-related.”

Determining work-relatedness for purposes of OSHA record keeping requirements is often similar to the analysis that is used in determining whether an injury is work-related under the Colorado Workers’ Compensation Act.  However, there may be some minor distinctions between what is considered work-related between the two laws.  For example, there is a distinction between injuries which occur in parking lots.

The general rule in Colorado in the workers’ compensation context is that injuries which take place while driving to and from work are not work-related. See Industrial Comm’n v. Lavach, 439 P.2d 359, 361 (Colo. 1968); Berry’s Coffee Shop, Inc. v. Palomba, 423 P.2d 2, 4-5 (Colo. 1967).  However, that general rule changes once the employee reaches an adjacent parking lot next to the employer’s premises.  In general, Colorado courts have determined that accidents occurring in parking lots maintained on the employer’s premises or provided by the employer for the benefit of the employee may potentially be compensable injuries for purposes of workers compensation.

In Woodruff World Travel, Inc. v. Indus. Comm’n, 38 Colo. App. 92, 554 P.2d 705 (Colo. 1976), the Court of Appeals even specified that there is no requirement that the parking lot is owned, maintained or operated by the claimant’s employer so long as parking is considered a fringe benefit to the employee.  Additionally, the Industrial Claim Appeals Office has provided the following holding on this issue:  “It is now ‘practically’ universally accepted that a parking lot adjacent to the employer’s business is a part of the employer’s premises.” Rodriguez v. Exempla Healthcare, Inc., W.C. No. 4-705-673 (ICAO April 30, 2008).   As a result, most injuries which occur in a parking lot adjacent to an employer’s facility will be deemed work-related under Colorado workers’ compensation law.

Under OSHA, however, injuries caused by car accidents that occur in the company parking lot while the employee is commuting to or from work are generally not considered work-related for OSHA reporting purposes. The one exception to this distinction is if the accident occurs in the parking lot while the employee is traveling in the interest of the employer. 29 CFR Section 1904.5(b)(2)(vii).

As a result, an injury in a parking lot could potentially be compensable under the Colorado Workers’ Compensation Act but not reportable under OSHA.  This demonstrates that there may be inconsistencies between whether an injury is considered work-related when comparing OSHA and workers’ compensation laws.

If you have any questions about OSHA or any other employment laws or situations, please contact Brad Miller at bmiller@pollartmiller.com or Andres Hermosillo at ahermosillo@pollartmiller.com. Both Mr. Miller and Mr. Hermosillo can also be reached at 720.488.9586.

 

From the June 2018 Pollart Miller Newsletter

2019-01-22T11:05:18+00:00