Mar 15, 2001 General Employment Issues

Revisions to Occupational Safety and Health Administration Injury/Illness Recordkeeping System

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has revised its rules pertaining to recording and reporting of occupational injuries and illnesses. The new rules, which become effective on January 1, 2002, simplify the recordkeeping process and provide clearer regulatory requirements, thus making compliance easier for employers. OSHA’s revisions also offer employers more freedom to use computers in meeting the regulatory requirements, thereby reducing unnecessary paperwork and enhancing cost-effectiveness.

The revisions were published in January 19, 2001, Federal Register and are thus exempt from the Bush administration’s review of new regulatory proposals. These revisions also are not affected by the recent highly publicized revocation of OSHA’s ergonomics standards by Congress.

Purpose of the Regulations

OSHA designed the injury/illness recordkeeping requirements so that employers would become more aware of workplace hazards by keeping track of incidents and their causes. By maintaining detailed records, employers become aware of the kinds of injuries and illnesses that are occurring in the workplace and the hazards that contribute to them. Employers can then remedy hazardous workplace conditions.

Thus, Recording or reporting a work-related injury, illness, or fatality does not indicate that the employer or employee was at fault, that an OSHA rule was violated, or that the employee is eligible for workers’ compensation or other benefits.

Determining Who is Subject to the Recordkeeping Regulations

Whether or not a business is subject to the regulations is based upon its size and its hazard classification. Company size is determined by the number of employees in the entire company, not in a single location.

Employers who had more than ten employees at any time during the previous calendar year must keep OSHA injury/illness records unless they are part of a designated low-hazard industry. Low-hazard industries include retail, service, finance, insurance, and real estate. Employers within these categories are partially exempt from the recordkeeping requirements.

Employers who are partially exempt are not required to keep injury/illness records unless OSHA or the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) informs them in writing that they must keep records. Employers who had ten or fewer employees at all times during the previous calendar year are also partially exempt from the recordkeeping rules.

However, every employer, without exception, must report to OSHA within eight hours any workplace incident that results in a fatality or the hospitalization of three or more employees. This report must be made either by contacting the OSHA toll-free central telephone number 800-321-OSHA (6742), or in person at the OSHA area office that is nearest the site of the incident.

The Current Regulations

Employers covered by the recordkeeping regulations must keep records of the occupational injuries and illnesses of their employees. There are three forms the employer must use. The first is OSHA Form 200 (referred to as the OSHA Log) which summarizes each injury and illness that occurs throughout the year. The second is OSHA Form 101, which records details about each incident. And the third is the Annual Summary Sheet, which the employer fills out at each year’s end. This form summarizes all of the incidents the employer recorded throughout the year. It is then posted from February 1 to March 1 of the year following the year to which the records refer.

However, the regulations have been difficult for employers to follow. The forms are complicated, the recording criteria varies for injuries and illnesses and the rules are costly and time-consuming due to the requirement that recordkeeping be done mostly by hand.

The New Regulations (Effective January 1, 2002)

The revised regulations simplify the forms, clarify the rules and instructions, provide a single set of recording criteria and allow employers more freedom to use computers.

The OSHA Log, now Form 300, is simplified. The detailed Incident Report, now Form 301, includes additional data about how the incident occurred. And the Annual Summary Sheet is updated to make it easier to calculate incident rates. The Summary must now be posted for three months instead of one, beginning with the February 1, 2003 posting summarizing the year 2002. Each recordable incident must be entered on each of the three forms within seven calendar days of receiving knowledge of the incident.

Recording Criteria

An illness or injury must be recorded if it involves death, loss of consciousness, days away from work, restriction of work or motion, transfer to another job, medical treatment other than first aid, or diagnosis of a significant injury or illness by a licensed health care professional. Additionally, employers must record all needlestick and other injuries involving contamination by another person’s blood or other bodily fluid.

OSHA requires employers to record only those injuries and illnesses that are “work-related.” Generally, injuries and illnesses are work-related if events or exposures at work either caused or contributed to the condition or significantly aggravated a pre-existing injury or illness.

Whose Injuries to Record

All employees on the payroll, regardless of whether they are executive, labor, hourly, salary, seasonal or migrant workers are covered by the regulations. Employers must also record the injuries and illnesses of those not on the payroll if they are supervised on a daily basis. When a business is organized as a sole proprietorship or partnership, the owner and partners are not considered employees for recordkeeping purposes.

Employee Involvement

The new rules state that the recordkeeping process must be interactive. Employers must establish how employees will report injuries, convey this information to each employee and provide employees, and their representatives, with access to the records.

Privacy Concerns

When recording a privacy concern case employers may not enter the employee’s name on the OSHA 300 Log. Instead of writing the employee’s name, employers should enter “privacy case.” The following is a complete list of all injuries and illness that are privacy concern cases:

(i) An injury to illness to an intimate body part or the reproductive system;

(ii) An injury or illness resulting from sexual assault;

(iii) Mental illness;

(iv) HIV, hepatitis, or tuberculosis;

(v) Needlestick injuries and cuts from sharp object that are contaminated with another person’s blood or other potentially infectious material; and

(vi) Other illnesses, if the employee requests that his or her name be omitted from the Log.

* * * * *

Please contact any of our attorneys if you wish to discuss in more detail compliance with the new OSHA recordkeeping requirements.