When you receive an employee injury report, your thoughts may range from, “How did it happen?” to “Well, there go my plans for the day.” After you make sure the employee is taken care of, you’ll need to investigate, determine what happened and how it could have been prevented, and figure out if the incident needs to be recorded on your OSHA 300 Log. 

Most of the time, injury and illness recordkeeping is straightforward, but employers still have trouble with several key recordkeeping topics. Are you making any of the following mistakes?

Mistake #1: You don’t train managers and supervisors to encourage reporting. 

How to fix it: Train your managers to understand your employee reporting policies.

OSHA requires you to set up a reasonable procedure for employees to report work-related injuries and illnesses to you and inform them on how to do so. Managers and supervisors need to understand your reporting procedures and encourage employees to use them. OSHA can, and does, cite employers for discouraging employees from reporting work-related injuries and illnesses, or for retaliating against employees who report. 

Mistake #2: You rely on your Workers’ Compensation agency to determine work-relatedness.

How to fix it: Refer to OSHA’s definition of “work-relatedness.” 

Your Worker’s Compensation carrier may deny a claim, saying the case is not work-related, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have to record the case. You need to look at how OSHA defines work-relatedness to make the right call. 

OSHA says a case is work-related if an event or exposure in the workplace caused or contributed to the condition, or “significantly aggravated” a pre-existing condition. Typically, an existing condition has been significantly aggravated if the treatment for it changed. Basically, you need to consider any injury or illness that occurs in the work environment to be work-related unless a specific exemption listed at 1904.5(b)(2) applies. 

If you determine the case is work-related, new, and meets one or more of the general recording criteria, then you must record it. 

Mistake #3: You record every incident “just to be sure.”

How to fix it: Act in good faith and document all your decisions. 

Recording every injury, illness, or near miss that occurs in your establishment, even if it does not meet the recordkeeping criteria, is not your best strategy. First, OSHA compliance officers use your records to direct their efforts during workplace inspections. Second, every incident you record affects your incidence rates, which in turn can be used to target your business for state and federal inspections. The higher your incidence rates, the more you may end up paying for insurance. Having high incidence rates could even affect your ability to land a contract. 

Although you do need to include every recordable case, trust your judgment when incidents do not meet the recording criteria. If you’re unsure whether an injury is recordable, read through the regulations, check to see if OSHA has a letter of interpretation on the topic, consult with an expert, or call your local OSHA office. Then document, document, document.  

Mistake #4: You don’t record injuries to your temporary employees.

How to fix it: Record injuries to temps if you are the controlling employer.

OSHA says you must record the work-related injuries and illness for all your employees, whether salaried, hourly, seasonal, part-time, full-time, or migrant workers. You must also record for employees who are not on your payroll if you have the “day-to-day supervision.”

Day-to-day supervision means having a high degree of control over the temporary worker’s job, including telling them how, when, and where to do the work. Usually, your company is the controlling employer for reporting purposes when you hire temps from a staffing agency.

Mistake #5: You record all recommendations for restricted work.

How to fix it: Only record recommendations that meet OSHA’s definition of restricted work. 

Not all cases of work restrictions meet OSHA’s definition of recordable restricted work activities. You only need to record cases where the restriction affects the worker’s routine functions or keeps the employee from working his or her full workday.

Routine functions are activities an employee performs at least once per week. For example, if a physician tells the employee not to lift more than 30 pounds, and the employee never lifts more than 20 pounds on the job, that is not a recordable work restriction because lifting 30 pounds is not a routine function of the job.

Mistake #6: You only count days the employee was scheduled to work.

How to fix it: Count the calendar days away from work, work restrictions, or job transfers.

For counting days away from work or work restrictions/job transfers, OSHA requires you to count calendar days, including scheduled vacation days, weekends, and holidays. You do not, however, count the day the injury or illness began.

You may stop the day count at 180 days, which includes a combination of days away and work restrictions or job transfers. 

Mistake #7: You don’t keep Logs for all your covered establishments.

How to fix it: Review the definition of and establishment and the exemptions. 

Covered employers must keep a separate 300 Log for each establishment that is expected to be in business for one year or longer. This means that each of your locations must keep track of the work-related injuries and illness that occur there, unless the location is partially exempt from recordkeeping as a low-hazard industry. 

For employees who work remotely or have jobs where they never report to a fixed location, you must “link” these employees to one of your establishments for recordkeeping purposes. 

OSHA defines an “establishment” as, “a single physical location where business is conducted or where services or industrial operations are performed.” However, sometimes you may combine two or more locations into one establishment for recordkeeping, or you may wish to separate one location into two or more establishments. Check the regulations for guidance. 

Making a good faith effort is not a mistake

You may not be making any of the above mistakes, but questions crop up occasionally because injury and illness recordkeeping is so situational; what is recordable in once instance may not be in another. OSHA mainly expects you to make good-faith recordkeeping determinations based on your knowledge of the case and the regulations. So keep good records, check the regulations and other published guidance, and above all, keep a cool head.