In January 2001 (66FR 5916-6135) OSHA published revisions to its rule on Recording and Reporting Occupational Injuries and Illnesses (29CFR 1904 and 1952, commonly known as the Recordkeeping Rule) to take effect January 1, 2002. With it OSHA is attempting to collect better information about the incidence of occupational injuries and illnesses, improve employee awareness and involvement, simplify the recordkeeping system for employers, and permit the increased use of computers and other electronic data capture methods.

The revised rule has eliminated much of the confusion of recording occupational injuries and illnesses and is seen by many employers as a positive step in OSHA's desire to couple compliance assistance with traditional enforcement.

What's changed?

Some key provisions of the new rule are:

  • Three recordkeeping forms:

    • OSHA Form 300 (Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses) is a simplified version of the older Form 200, and is designed to fit on legal-size paper.
    • OSHA Form 301 (Injury and Illness Incident Report) replaces the Form 101, and allows more data entry about how the injury or illness occurred.
    • OSHA Form 300A (Summary of Work-Related Injury and Illnesses) is a new form created to make it easier to calculate incidence statistics.

  • Eliminates different criteria for recording injuries and illnesses. One set of requirements is used for both.

  • Includes new definitions of medical treatment, first aid and restricted work. Under the old rule, first aid as listed in the Blue Book was not comprehensive. Under the new 1904.7(b)(5)(ii), the first aid listing is comprehensive. Anything not listed is considered medical treatment and, therefore, recordable.

  • Includes separate provisions describing the recording criteria for cases involving the work-related transmission of tuberculosis.

  • Eliminates the term "lost workdays" and requires employers to record days away from work, or days restricted or transferred to another job. (A handy acronym is "DART" - record Deaths, Days Away, Days Restricted and Days Transferred.)

  • Employers must now count calendar days for cases meeting recordable criteria, as opposed to workdays. However, there is a 180-day cap on the count.

  • Continues to exempt employers with ten or fewer employees from recordkeeping for most requirements, except as specifically requested by OSHA or the Bureau of Labor Statistics, for example.

  • Changes the exemptions for employers in service and retail industries.

  • Clarifies the definition for work-relatedness.

  • Protects employee privacy in cases regarding "sensitive" injuries and illnesses.

  • A company executive must now certify the annual summary, as opposed to the person who supervised preparation of the summary.

  • The annual summary is now to be posted from February 1 to April 30.

    Clearing the confusion

    Employers not exempt from recordkeeping requirements have always had to prepare and maintain injury and illness statistics. OSHA and BLS have used these statistics to determine where compliance assistance and enforcement efforts should be targeted. Employers can use the statistics to identify problem areas.

    However, under the old rule there was often confusion in determining whether an event or exposure was classified as a work-related injury or illness, whether a treatment was considered medical treatment or first aid, and in calculating the number of workdays an employee was not able to perform his or her job. This led, in some instances, to employers choosing to record ALL injuries and illnesses, whether they met the general recording criteria or not, working on the assumption that recording all is better than missing some and being cited. As a result, Workers' Compensation rates continue to skyrocket.

    OSHA saw the need to clarify this rule, and embarked on efforts to have a revised recordkeeping rule. Due to various issues, the rule did not come into effect until January 1, 2002. On that date all letters of interpretation regarding the former rule's injury and illness recordkeeping requirements were withdrawn.

    Two key issues

    There were two main issues in the original proposal that OSHA reserved for further study, and therefore delayed the effective date of 1904.10, recording criteria for cases involving occupational hearing loss, and 1904.12, recording criteria for cases involving musculoskeletal disorders, until January 1, 2003.

    Regarding hearing loss, based on OSHA's review and public comment, beginning January 1, 2003, employers will be required to record 10-decibel shifts from the employee's initial hearing test when it also results in an overall hearing loss of 25 decibels. OSHA had originally proposed to tighten the requirement to record a shift in hearing averaging 25 decibels from original baseline down to 10 decibels, but public comment caused the Agency to question the appropriateness of 10 decibels as the recording criterion.

    At this time, OSHA is seeking public comments on the recordkeeping rule's definition of musculoskeletal disorders and whether to include MSDs and hearing loss columns on the OSHA Form 300. Until the Agency determines how to define musculoskeletal disorders and comes up with a comprehensive ergonomics plan, the effective date of 1904.12 is further delayed until January 1, 2004.

    Despite these "growing pains," recordkeeping should play a vital role in assisting employers in analyzing injuries and illnesses, devising preventative strategies and encouraging employee involvement in making workplaces safer.