Have you logged work-related injuries or illnesses from this past year?

Published on Wed, 01/30/2013 - 13:54

Depending on your industry, you may be facing a February 1 deadline to post a summary of your log of any serious work-related injuries or illnesses that have occurred over the past year at your company. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) is cracking down on employers that neglect to do so. As a result, time is of the essence if you are required to post that report and haven't pulled the necessary information together. And if you have never kept records of work-related injuries or illnesses, and aren't sure if you need to, now is a good time to figure it out. Not every organization is required to maintain injury and illness records and post the annual summary report. If you have fewer than 10 employees, for example, you are off the hook. Consult this web page to determine whether you are in an industry that is exempt from recordkeeping requirements. The list of business categories exempt from recordkeeping requirements is surprisingly long, given that serious injuries can occur  anywhere. A few exempt business categories include retail stores, banks, medical offices, law firms and insurance companies. OSHA believes that one benefit of the reporting requirements for employers is to give them an opportunity to see how their safety records compare with similar organizations. Naturally the hope is that if your company has an above average work-related injury or illness rate, alarm bells will sound and you will get to the root of the problem.

Recordable Events For covered employers, the two basic categories of "recordable" events under the OSHA recordkeeping regulations, according to the agency are: 1. All work-related fatalities, and 2. All work-related injuries and illnesses that result in days away from work, restricted work or transfer to another job, loss of consciousness "or medical treatment beyond first aid." "In addition," OSHA advises, a covered employer "must record significant work-related injuries or illness diagnosed by a physician or other licensed health care professional, even if it does not result in death, days away from work, restricted work or job transfer, medical treatment beyond first aid, or loss of consciousness." In other words, when in doubt, record the incident. OSHA's definitions of injuries include, "but are not limited to," cuts, fractures, sprains and amputations. Reportable illnesses embrace both acute and chronic conditions, including skin disease, respiratory disorders and poisoning.

Defining "Work-Related" What makes any of these work-related? OSHA's definition is straightforward. They are deemed work-related "if an event or exposure in the work environment either caused or contributed to the condition" (emphasis added). Moreover, according to OSHA's summary of its recordkeeping rule, "if an event or exposure in the work environment significantly aggravated a preexisting injury or illness, this is also considered work-related." Covered employers are required to maintain a log of work-related illnesses or injuries, specifically using an official "Form 300." A separate log must be maintained for each worksite. That form, and another one used to summarize any reportable activity over the past calendar year (a Form 300A) can be found on this web page. It is the Form 300A that must be posted, specifically between Feb. 1 and April 30 -- even if no work-related injuries or illnesses occurred. Your obligations don't stop there. "Current or former employees, or their representatives, have the right to access injury and illness records," according to OSHA. "Employers must give the requester a copy of the relevant record(s) by the end of the next business day."

When to Call OSHA Note: In addition to logging the event, if a fatal work-related accident occurs at your workplace, or if at least three workers are hospitalized, you need to call OSHA and report the incident within eight hours. One common mistake in complying with the recordkeeping rule, according to Edwin Foulke Jr. (co-chair of Fisher & Phillips' workplace safety and catastrophe practice group) relates to certifying the summary report. In particular, the summary of the logs that must be posted needs to be certified by a certain category of "executive" within the company--which might not be the HR or safety director. The executive must fall into one of these four categories: • An owner of the company • A corporate officer • The highest-ranking executive working at the business, or • The immediate supervisor of the highest-ranking executive working at the establishment. The certified form must be displayed in a conspicuous place where employee notices are typically posted. And a copy of that 300A form needs to be given to employees who would not otherwise see it due to not having to report to a regular place of work on a routine basis. Sloppiness in filling out the form can get you in trouble, Foulke warns. Employers are required to review their records "as extensively as necessary" to guarantee their accuracy, he says. Employers must keep and, if necessary, update five years worth of records and have them available for review by OSHA inspectors.

Please contact your Heffernan representative with any additional questions you may have.