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Avoid an OSHAn of Trouble: Keep Those Records!
Keeping the records required by OSHA does not have to be hard or confusing. Easy to follow directions on keeping your company compliant with OSHA’s recordkeeping requirements.
By DeAnna Stephens
Date Posted: 3/1/2010
Keeping the records required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) does not have to be a difficult task. Like a lot of government paperwork it can seem overwhelming at first. But it is actually simpler than it first appears and is a useful way to use the extra time that comes from periods of slow business.
Updating your OSHA records will prepare your company to focus on more pressing matters once the pace of business picks back up.
Who Should Keep Records?
Because pallet manufacturing and recycling is not considered a low-hazard industry, employers must fulfill the OSHA recordkeeping requirements.
The one exception to this rule is the partial exemption for size. Companies which had 10 or fewer employees at their peak employment during the previous calendar year are not required by OSHA to keep records of injuries and illnesses, unless they were informed otherwise in writing by OSHA or the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This exemption only exempts the company from filling out the incident forms for work-related injuries or illnesses, not from other OSHA requirements.
All full-time, part-time, temporary and seasonal employees must be counted when calculating peak employment. This number does not include owners and partners of sole proprietorships or partnerships. In a corporation, however, a corporate officer who receives payment for his service is considered an employee.
What Records Should Be Kept?
The first step in recordkeeping is understanding what should and should not be recorded. Records kept should cover both employees on payroll and any non-payroll employees that are supervised by the company on a day-to-day basis, such as temporary workers hired through an agency.
All pallet companies that do not qualify for a recordkeeping exemption must keep records of all work-related injuries or illnesses that result in:
• Days away from work
• Restricted work or job transfer
• Medical treatment beyond first aid
• The diagnosis of a significant injury or illness by a licensed health care professional
An injury or illness is work-related if an event or exposure in the work environment caused or contributed to an injury or illness or significantly aggravated a pre-existing injury or illness. The work environment is defined by OSHA as “the establishment and other locations where one or more employees are working or are present as a condition of their employment. The work environment includes not only physical locations, but also the equipment or materials used by the employees during the course of his or her work.”
Even if an injury or illness occurs in the work environment, it is not considered work-related if the work environment did not cause or contribute to the incident. Situations that should not be considered work-related include:
• The common cold or flu.
• Injuries caused by motor vehicle accidents occurring in company parking lots or on company access roads while employees are commuting to or from work.
• Injuries and illnesses that are solely the result of personal grooming, self-medication for a non-work-related condition, or are intentionally self-inflicted.
• Injuries and illnesses that are solely the result of employees doing personal tasks, unrelated to their employment, at the establishment outside of their assigned working hours.
• Injuries and illnesses that are solely the result of an employee eating, drinking, or preparing food or drink for personal consumption (whether bought on the premises or brought in).
• Injuries and illnesses that result solely from voluntary participation in a wellness program or a medical, fitness or recreational activity.
• A mental illness.
• Injury or illness that involves signs or symptoms that surface at work
but result solely from a pre-existing condition.
For recordkeeping purposes a pre-existing condition is one that results from any non-work-related event or an exposure that occurs outside the work environment. When dealing with the possibility of a pre-existing condition, the employer must evaluate the work duties and environment of the employee and decide if anything within them either caused or significantly aggravated a pre-existing condition. If a pre-existing condition has been seriously aggravated by something in the work environment it must be recorded. The results of the significant aggravation of a pre-existing condition must be tangible consequences that go beyond what the worker would have experienced without the effects of the workplace. OSHA considers an injury or illness significantly aggravated when any of the following occur as a result of an event or exposure in the work environment:
• Loss of consciousness.
• One or more days away from work, of restricted work, or job transfer.
• Medical treatment beyond first aid or a change in medical treatment.
• Injury or illness that resulted solely from a pre-existing condition should not be recorded on the OSHA forms.
OSHA leaves the final decision on whether or not an incident is work-related to the employer. “Employers are in the best position to obtain the information, both from the employee and the workplace, that is necessary to make this determination,” according to the OSHA Recordkeeping Handbook. Using expert advice from a health care professional to make a decision in a difficult situation is also accepted, but not required.
How Should Records Be Kept?
Recording work-related injuries and illnesses requires the completion of three OSHA forms or their equivalent:
1. Form 300
2. Form 300A
3. Form 301.
Form 301 is the Injury and Illness Incident Report. One must be completed for each injury or illness that occurs, within seven days of the employer being notified of the case. Each Form 301 covers the details of the incident, including what happened, how it happened and who was involved.
With cases involving a physician recommending days away from work, the number of days the physician recommends should be recorded on the form, regardless of whether or not the employee follows the recommendation. An update to the form may be required after the days away from work are actually known. For extended periods away from work, OSHA allows employers to “cap” the total days away at 180 calendar days.
Form 300 is the Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses. This form includes all work-related injuries or illnesses for the company within a given year. Only one must be completed per year. It is filled out using the information from the 301 forms, and should be updated throughout the year following any new incidents.
Form 300A is the Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses. It is completed after the end of the year using information from the Form 300. It should be completed by February 1 following the year it covers. The summary must be certified by a company executive and posted from February 1 to April 30 in a conspicuous area that is visible to employees.
All forms must be filled out completely and kept on file for five years following the year they apply to. Companies are not required to use the actual forms created by OSHA. However, if they use different forms they must ensure that all the information required on the OSHA forms is included. The forms can also be kept on computers as electronic files. Nevertheless, a company must be able to produce paper copies of the forms when needed or required by OSHA.
Beyond keeping records, any accident that results in a fatality or the hospitalization of three or more employees must be reported within eight hours to the nearest OSHA office by phone or in person.
States with OSHA-approved programs may have different or additional recordkeeping requirements. Most state programs have standards that are comparable to OSHA’s standards. However, companies should check with their state’s program to ensure proper compliance.
What Happens if Records Aren’t Properly Kept?
Failing to correctly keep the required records could be a costly mistake for a company. Currently, a company can be charged $1,000 for failing to post the Form 300A for the required period, and each Form 301 that is improperly completed, or not filled out at all. The maximum OSHA penalty is $70,000 per violation.
Legislation recently introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives could make recordkeeping mistakes even more costly. The Protecting America’s Workers Act would increase penalties for OSHA violations, making it even more important for companies to keep the proper records. Whoever thought one piece of paper could cost so much? Well it can, and smart companies are using lulls in business to make sure they comply with these workplace safety laws.
Is Recordkeeping Connected to Worker’s Compensation?
Recordkeeping for OSHA should not be confused with eligibility for worker’s compensation, other benefits or as an admission of guilt by the employer or employee. Recording an injury or illness shows only that an injury or illness occurred, the employer determined it was work-related, and that it was not minor. Worker’s compensation is a separate program with different requirements. Any paperwork related to it should be completed independently of OSHA records.
What Does OSHA Do with the Records?
The OSHA recordkeeping system is intended to collect, compile and analyze uniform and consistent nationwide data on occupational injuries and illnesses. The data is used by OSHA for inspection targeting, standards development, resource allocation, Voluntary Protection Program eligibility, and “low-hazard” industry exemptions. Employers, employees and compliance officers use it to analyze and implement safety and health programs at individual workplaces. It is also the source of information for the OSHA Data Initiative and the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Annual Survey.
The complete OSHA Recordkeeping Handbook can be viewed online at www.osha.gov.