The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) seeks to improve tracking of on-the-job injuries and illnesses. On March 30, 2022, the Administration published a proposed rule that would add new requirements for establishments with 100 or more employees in the highest-hazard industries.
“OSHA believes that it is vital for the public to have access to illness and injury information that employers provide in their annual submissions,” Doug Parker, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, said in a press release. “We are committed to enforcing this important requirement and will continue to look for strategies to reach full compliance.”
To accomplish that goal, OSHA will match newly opened inspections against a list of potential non-responders — businesses that haven’t filed the required injury & illness recordkeeping forms (including Forms 300, 300A, and 301) with their local offices.
The rule doesn’t change OSHA’s basic reporting requirements. However, to ensure compliance, employers will need to understand what constitutes a recordable injury or illness. In this article, we’ll provide an overview (contact your local OSHA office for more guidance).
OSHA Recordable Injuries Criteria
Serious work-related injuries and illnesses must be recorded if they require medical aid apart from basic first aid.
OSHA defines “first aid” as using non-prescription medication at non-prescription strength, using wound coverings (such as bandages), using hot or cold therapies, using non-rigid means of support (such as wraps), using temporary immobilization devices (such as splints or slings), using eyepatches, or administering tetanus immunizations.
OSHA reporting is essential for all work-related incidents that result in:
- Days Away From Work (DAFW)
- Restricted work (or transfer to another job)
- Medical treatment beyond first aid
- Loss of consciousness
- Diagnosed cases of cancer; chronic irreversible diseases; fractured or cracked bones or teeth; and punctured eardrums
Additionally, there are special recording criteria for work-related cases involving:
- Needlesticks and sharps injuries
- Medical removal
- Hearing loss
For most employers, the distinction between “reportable” and “non-reportable” injuries is fairly straightforward. If your employees require treatment while they’re away from the job — including physical therapy or chiropractic treatment — you’ll need to document that treatment, provided that the injury was sustained on the job.
Exemptions for OSHA Recordable Injuries and Illnesses
Certain “low-risk” industries are exempt from some of OSHA’s reporting requirements, including businesses in the retail and telecommunications sectors. A full list of partial exemptions can be found here. If your business is in logistics or warehousing, you probably don’t qualify for an exemption.
Some smaller businesses may not need to keep records (though all businesses must report deaths and severe injuries). Per OSHA, if your organization had fewer than 10 employees at all times during the last calendar year, you don’t need to keep OSHA injury and illness records (though you might still want to keep documentation of each incident — particularly if your company is growing).
If your organization had more than 10 employees at any time during the last calendar year, you’re required to keep injury and illness records, even if you’re seeking an exemption under §1904.2, “Partial exemption for establishments in certain industries.”
OSHA Recordkeeping Requirements for Recordable Injuries
OSHA’s reporting guidelines are intended to help the Administration track industry hazards, but accurate reports are also helpful for employers and employees. If your operation has a long list of on-the-job injuries, you’ll certainly want to know how you can improve — even if you’re fully compliant with other OSHA guidelines.
Non-exempt employers must take the following steps to comply with OSHA recordkeeping and reporting requirements:
- Report injuries and illnesses within 7 days after receiving information about the incident. Employers may fill out Form 301 (Injury and Illness Incident Report) to satisfy this requirement. Some other types of reports may be acceptable as substitutes for Form 301 (for instance, state workers’ compensation insurance claims).
- Maintain a log of serious work-related injuries and illnesses using Form 300 (Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses).
- Maintain these records of all serious injuries for at least five years.
- Each February through April, post a summary of all injuries and illnesses recorded during the previous year.
- Provide copies of the records to current and former employees (or their representatives) upon request.
- Submit Form 300A (Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses) by March 2nd of each year. Employers can submit Form 300A online via the Injury Tracking Application (ITA).
- Report severe injuries (such as hospitalization, amputation, or the loss of an eye) to OSHA within 24 hours by calling 1-800-321-6742 or using OSHA’s online resources.
- Report fatalities to OSHA within 8 hours.
These are general requirements — your organization may have different obligations depending on its industry and workplace history. Once again, it’s important to reach out to your local OSHA office if you have any questions about requirements for recordkeeping or reporting.
Common Mistakes When Filing OSHA Injury & Illness Reports
While OSHA’s reporting guidelines are fairly straightforward, there’s some room for confusion. Here are a few common reporting mistakes:
Inaccurate DAFW or Restricted Work Activity timelines.
Employers should count the number of calendar days that the employee missed work or was on restricted activity after the incident occurs (not including the date of the injury).
Improperly defined “restricted work activity.”
According to OSHA, restricted work activity occurs when a healthcare professional — or the employer — recommends keeping an employee from doing “the routine functions” of their job, or from working full workdays.
In other words, if you move an employee to a different workstation to accommodate an injury that occurred on the job, that’s “restricted work activity,” which must be reported.
Reports that compromise medical privacy.
Certain injuries may create privacy concerns for employees. For example, if an incident exposed a worker to potential HIV, hepatitis, or tuberculosis infection, you shouldn’t enter the employee’s name when filling out the Form 300 log.
Improperly Classified Injuries
You must report injuries and illnesses that occur from events in the work environment along with the most serious outcome for each case. For example, if a worker slips in the workplace and misses a day of work, that’s a reportable injury — even if they feel fine the next day and offer to use a vacation day to cover the recovery time.
Building a Long-Term Plan for OSHA Compliance
Every business should keep records of on-site incidents and report those incidents within OSHA’s required timeframes. However, the best way to comply with OSHA’s recordkeeping rules is to operate a safe workplace — and provide employees with the resources they need to work safely.
Here are a few considerations to keep in mind when building your compliance strategy.
Think About Ergonomics
OSHA doesn’t publish specific ergonomics regulations, but the Administration may cite employers for ergonomic hazards under the General Duty Clause of the OSH Act.
Setting compliance considerations aside, great ergonomics translates to better productivity — and fewer on-the-job injuries. Across all sectors, musculoskeletal injuries accounted for 30 percent of days away from work in 2018.
To improve ergonomics:
- Identify tasks that require heavy lifting; repetitive motions; unnatural postures or body movements; or bodily contact with hard or sharp edges.
- Design workstations to support better ergonomics. That might mean adding battery roller stands, tilt tables, or other equipment to allow employees to move naturally when working.
- Train employees to use ergonomic movements. Enforce frequent breaks for workers who perform high-risk tasks.
Related: Ergonomics in Material Handling
Understand Workplace Hazards
Most potential hazards can be addressed before they impact safety. In the battery room, drip pans and epoxy flooring may prevent slip-and-fall incidents; in traffic lanes, structural barriers and bollards can keep equipment (and workers) safe.
Perform a full hazard assessment, then look for ways to invest in high-quality equipment. While well-trained employees can work safely in just about any environment, eliminating potential hazards is always the best course of action.
Train Workers — And Keep Training
Workplace safety begins (and continues) with safety training. Some quick tips for building your training program:
- Make sure employees understand how to properly wear personal protective equipment (PPE), particularly in the battery room and other workspaces with unique safety hazards.
- Don’t rely on PPE alone to protect workers. Remember, PPE is a last resort for preventing injuries.
- Include ergonomics training for all workers. Provide employees with a way to report ergonomic hazards — and be prepared to take action.
- Review training requirements in OSHA standards (PDF). Make sure your training content fulfills compliance requirements and keep thorough documentation.