OSHA Recordkeeping Errors

US-OSHA-LogoAs the February 1st posting deadline for the OSHA 300A Annual Summary approaches, employers should be on the lookout for some common mistakes made in recordkeeping.  Be sure you know how to avoid making these common errors before posting your annual summary or responding to a survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Confusion Caused by Non-OSHA Criteria:  States’ workers’ compensation criteria and a physician’s own criteria for determining work-relatedness may differ from OSHA’s work-related criteria.  Employers should ensure they are not basing their recordability determinations on compensability or the opinions of physicians who are not applying OSHA’s approach to determining recordability.

Concerns about Employee Creditability:  Employers cannot automatically opt to omit an injury from their OSHA log due to an employee’s failure to immediately report an injury or due to the lack of witnesses to substantiate the employee’s account of events.  An employer must evaluate whether the employee’s description of events is credible and whether there is evidence to either support or counter the employee’s claim.  Employers should examine the employee’s work duties and environment to determine whether it is more likely than not that one or more events or exposures at work caused or contributed to the condition.  If, after a thorough review, the employer determines it is unlikely that the event or exposure occurred in the work environment, it is recommended that the employer document the facts and reasons supporting the employer’s decision to not record the injury.  [Reference 1904.5(b)(3)]

What is a “Significant” Aggravation of a Pre-Existing, Non-Occupational Injury:  OSHA states that the amount of aggravation to a pre-existing injury or illness must be “significant” before work-relatedness can be established.  Employers can easily misinterpret the meaning of the term “significant” and think they are permitted to distinguish between what they consider to be insignificant and significant aggravations.  The regulation, however, requires that any aggravation caused by work related events or exposures (regardless of how minor or major their contribution) changing the extent of medical treatment, triggering lost time, resulting in work restrictions, or requiring a job transfer must be considered work related and recorded.  [Reference 1904.5(b)(4)]

Properly Utilizing a Second Physician’s Opinion:  OSHA permits employers to utilize a second physician’s opinion on whether or not treatment or restrictions recommended by a previous physician are necessary.  While this approach can sometimes help an employer avoid a recordable case, once medical treatment, days away from work or restricted work activity have taken place, the employer cannot utilize the second physician’s opinion.  [Reference 1904.7(b)(3)(ii); 1904.7(b)(4)(viii); FAQ 7-10; and FAQ 7-10a]

Misconceptions about Work Restrictions:  There is often a misconception among employers that as long as an employee can perform work within their job description, their work is not restricted.  OSHA, however, states that a restriction occurs when due to a work related injury, a licensed health care professional recommends that an employee not perform one or more “routine functions” of his job or not work a full workday; or an employer keeps an employee from performing one or more “routine function” of his job or from working a full workday.  “Routine functions” are defined as those work activities the employee regularly performs at least once per week.  Therefore, employers need to review what tasks the employee performs at least once per week and determine if the restriction prevents any of the tasks from being performed.  If so, their work is restricted. [Reference 1904.7(b)(4) and FAQ 7-4]

OSHA Recordkeeping ErrorsInjuries and Illnesses Not Recorded within Seven Days:  Recordable injuries and illnesses are required to be entered on the OSHA 300 form within seven calendar days of notification that the incident occurred.  If employers utilize electronic incident management systems, they should ensure recordable injuries are properly designated and the workflow of the incident is processed beyond the point at which the entry is electronically added to the OSHA 300 or equivalent form within seven calendar days.  [Reference 1904.29(b)(3)]

Failure to Properly Complete the OSHA 300 Form:  Employers should ensure there are no blank spaces in columns A through F for each recordable case on the OSHA 300 form.  Only one of the four severity classification columns (G through J) should be marked for each case.  Only the column with the most serious outcome associated with the case should be marked.  Employers should count total calendar days rather than only the days the injured employee was scheduled to work when accounting for days the injured employee was unable to work in column K or on restriction in column L.  In column M, employers should ensure the proper injury or illness classification box is selected.  [Reference “OSHA Forms for Recording Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses”]

Not Properly Completing and Certifying the OSHA 300A Annual Summary:  As with the OSHA 300 form, there should be no blanks on the OSHA 300A form.  In addition, employers must remember to count the total hours worked for all employees, both hourly and salary, to keep from having an artificially high incident rate.  Directly supervised contractors and temporary employees should also be included in the total hours.  The individual signing the annual summary as the company executive must be either the company owner (if the company is a sole proprietorship or partnership), a corporate officer, the highest ranking company official working at the site, or the immediate supervisor of the highest ranking person at the site.  [Reference 1904.32(b); FAQ 32-1; and “OSHA Forms for Recording Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses”]

Failure to Post the OSHA 300A Annual Summary:  The annual summary must be posted in an obvious and visible area where notices are normally posted from February 1 until April 30 of each year.  Electronically posting the OSHA 300A form does not meet the requirement for posting the annual summary.  [Reference 1904.32(b)(5); 1904.32(b)(6); FAQ 32-3; and “OSHA Forms for Recording Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses”]

Record Retention Requirements Not Met:  The OSHA 300 form, the privacy case list (if one exists), the OSHA 300A annual summary, and OSHA 301 incident report forms must be maintained for five years.  In addition, employers should have systems in place to add newly discovered recordable cases and update previously recordable cases on past OSHA 300 forms. [Reference 1904.33]

Improperly Claiming the Small Employer Exemption:  Employers are exempt from maintaining the OSHA recordkeeping forms if their company employed ten or fewer employees at all times during the previous calendar year.  If, however, at any point during the calendar year the number of employees peaked above ten, the employer is required to maintain the recordkeeping forms (unless classified as a partially exempt industry under 1904.2).  In the case of a company with multiple establishments, employers must count the total number of all company employees, not just the number at a particular facility, to determine if they qualify for the small employer exemption.  [Reference 1904.1]

Recordkeeping is an important element of every company’s safety program, and failure to correctly record injuries and illnesses can result in OSHA citations.  EHS Support’s Safety Team can help prevent costly citations for you and your company by advising on OSHA recordkeeping, providing training, and auditing records.

Are you Exempt?  Effective January 1, 2015 there is a new list of industries that will be partially exempt from keeping OSHA records. Review the industry list here. For more information on the best approach to annual health and safety recordkeeping, contact our Health & Safety Experts, Monica MeyerPeter O’Konski, or Tina Duffy.

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