What Is a Recordable Work-Related Injury or Illness?

If a worker is injured or becomes ill at work, the employer will often have to record the incident as a “work-related injury or illness” on OSHA’s Form 301, Injury and Illness Report, and OSHA’s Form 300, Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses.

To know if these forms must be completed, employers have to know what “work-related” means and what types of injuries and illnesses must be recorded. You must determine if the event is work-related and recordable within seven calendar days of receiving information about the event.

Do All Businesses Have to Keep Injury and Illness Records for OSHA?

No. In fact, according to OSHA, only about 20% of American businesses do. Small businesses with fewer than 10 employees are partially exempted from this record keeping requirement in 1904.1. In addition, 1904 Subpart B Appendix A lists industries that are partially exempt from this requirement. Finally, 1904.3 states that you may be exempt from OSHA recordkeeing requirements if you comply with similar recordkeeping requirements mandated by another government agency.

Note that OSHA has announced new recordkeeping and reporting requirements that require more companies to keep records (which we’re talking about right now) and to report (which we’ll talk about a little later). Please read this recent blog post about OSHA’s reporting and recordkeeping changes, which go into effect January 1, 2015.

What Does the “Partial” in “Partially Exempt” mean in 1904.1 and 1904 Subpart B Appendix A?

Good question–glad you asked. Employers that are partially exempt from the recordkeeping requirements because of their size or industry must still comply with 1904.39‘s requirement to report fatalities and multiple hospitalization incidents, 1904.41‘s annual OSHA injury and illness survey (if specifically requested by OSHA to do so), and 1904.42‘s Bureau of Labor Statistics annual survey (again, if specifically asked to do so).

When Is an Injury or Illness Work-Related?

In most cases, an injury or illness is considered work-related if an event or an exposure in the work environment either caused or contributed to the condition, or if it the event or exposure significantly aggravated a pre-existing condition.

The phrase “work environment” includes the establishment and other locations where one or more employees are working or are present as a condition of their employment.

In 1904.5(b)(1), OSHA notes that “the work environment includes not only physical locations, but also the equipment or materials used by the employee during the course of his or her work.”

(Click here for OSHA Interpretations of that standard.)

Injuries and illnesses that result from events and exposures in the workplace are presumed to be “work-related,” as described above, unless one of the exceptions listed in 1904.5(b)(2) specifically apply. Those exceptions are:

  • At the time of the injury or illness, the employee was present in the work environment as a member of the general public rather than as an employee.
  • The injury or illness involves signs or symptoms that surface at work but result solely from a non-work-related event or exposure that occurs outside the work environment.
  • The injury or illness results solely from voluntary participation in a wellness program or in a medical, fitness, or recreational activity such as blood donation, physical examination, flu shot, exercise class, racquetball, or baseball.
  • The injury or illness is solely the result of an employee eating, drinking, or preparing food or drink for personal consumption (whether bought on the employer’s premises or brought in). For example, if the employee is injured by choking on a sandwich while in the employer’s establishment, the case would not be considered work-related. Note: If the employee is made ill by ingesting food contaminated by workplace contaminants (such as lead), or gets food poisoning from food supplied by the employer, the case would be considered work-related.
  • The injury or illness is solely the result of an employee doing personal tasks (unrelated to their employment) at the establishment outside of the employee’s assigned working hours.
  • The injury or illness is solely the result of personal grooming, self medication for a non-work-related condition, or is intentionally self-inflicted.
  • The injury or illness is caused by a motor vehicle accident and occurs on a company parking lot or company access road while the employee is commuting to or from work.
  • The illness is the common cold or flu (Note: contagious diseases such as tuberculosis, brucellosis, hepatitis A, or plague are considered work-related if the employee is infected at work).
  • The illness is a mental illness. Mental illness will not be considered work-related unless the employee voluntarily provides the employer with an opinion from a physician or other licensed health care professional with appropriate training and experience (psychiatrist, psychologist, psychiatric nurse practitioner, etc.) stating that the employee has a mental illness that is work-related.

(Click here for OSHA’s Interpretations of that standard.)

So, hopefully that clarifies the issue of “work-related.” Let’s move on to the next issue, shall we?

When Is a Work-Related Injury or Illness Recordable?

First, let’s talk about some new changes that are part of OSHA’s new requirements for reporting and recordkeeping that come into effect on January 1, 2015.

Those changes will require employers to notify OSHA when:

  • A worker is killed on the job (notification must occur within eight hours)
  • A worker suffers a work-related hospitalization, amputation or loss of an eye (notification must occur within 24 hours)

All employers covered by the Occupational Safety and Health Act, even those who are exempt from maintaining injury and illness records, are required to comply with these new fatlity and severe injury and illness reporting requirements.

Please check our article about the new OSHA changes to reporting and recordkeeping for more about this.

Next, the injury or illness has to be considered a “new case.” So what does it mean to be a “new case?” This is covered in 1904.6, Determination of New Cases. An injury or illness is a new case if the employee has not previously experienced a recorded injury or illness of the same type that affects the same part of the body. In addition, an injury or illness is considered a new case if the employee had previously experienced a recorded injury or illness of the same type that affected the same part of the body, but the employee had completed recovered from the previous injury or illness (meaning all signs and symptoms had disappeared) and an event or exposure in the work environment caused the signs or symptoms to reappear.

So, if you’ve got an injury or illness that is both work-related and a “new case,” you have to record it if it results in:

  • Death
  • Cancer
  • Chronic irreversible disease
  • A fractured or cracked bone
  • A punctured eardrum
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Days away from work
  • Restricted work activity or job transfer

What is “restricted work?”

According to OSHA, “restricted work” activity occurs when, as the result of a work-related injury or illness, an employer or health care professional keeps, or recommends keeping, an employee from doing the routine functions of the employee’s job or from working the full workday that the employee would have been scheduled to work before the injury or illness occurred.

  • Medical treatment beyond first aid

What is “medical treatment?”

According to OSHA, “medical treatment” includes managing and caring for a patient for the purpose of combating disease or disorder. Medical treatment DOES NOT include the following, and these are not recordable: visits to a doctor or health care professional solely for observing or counseling; diagnostic procedures, including administering prescription medications that are used solely for diagnostic purposes; and any procedure that can be labeled first aid.

What is “first aid?”

If the incident included ONLY the following types of treatment, it is considered first aid:

  • Using non-prescription medications at non-prescription strength
  • Administering tetanus immunizations
  • Cleaning, flushing, or soaking wounds on the skin surface
  • Using wound coverings, such as bandages, gauze pads, etc., or using SteriStrips or butterfly bandages
  • Using hot or cold therapy
  • Using any totally non-rigid means of support, such as elastic bandages, wraps, non-rigid back belts, etc.
  • Using temporary immobilization devices while transporting an accident victim (such as splints, slings, neck collars, or back boards)
  • Drilling a fingernail or toenail to relieve pressure, or draining fluids from blisters
  • Using eye patches
  • Using simple irrigation or a cotton swab to remove foreign bodies not embedded in or adhered to the eye
  • Using irrigation, tweezers, cotton swabs, or other simple means to remove splinters or foreign material from areas other than the eye
  • Using finger guards
  • Using massages
  • Drinking fluids to relieve heat stress

You must also record any work-related injury or illness that has been diagnosed by a physician or other licensed health care professional. This is true 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, as stated in 1904.7(a).

Finally, you must record any of the following conditions when they are work-related:

  • Any needlestick injury
  • Any cut from a sharp object that is contaminated with another person’s blood or other potentially infectious material
  • Any case requiring an employee to be medically removed under the requirements of an OSHA health standard
  • A tuberculosis infection as evidenced by a positive skin test or diagnosis by a physician or other licensed health care professional after exposure to a known case of active tuberculosis
  • An employee’s hearing test (audiogram) reveals (1) that the employee has experienced a Standard Threshold Shift (STS) in hearing in one or both ears (averaged at 2000, 3000, and 4000 Hz) and (2) the employee’s total hearing level is 25 decibels (dB) or more above audiometric zero (also averaged at 2000, 3000, and 4000 Hz) as the STS.

OK, so the information above should tell you if an incident is recordable. Now let’s move on to discuss what to do if you’ve got an injury or illness that is both work-related and recordable.

What If an Injury or Illness is “Work Related,” a “New Case,” and “Recordable?”

If you’ve determined that the injury or illness is work-related, a new case, and recordable, you will have to complete OSHA’s Form 301 (or an equivalent form that includes the same information—some state workers compensation, insurance, or other reports may be acceptable substitutes) and create an entry on OSHA’s Form 300, Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses. This has to be done within seven calendar days of the time you receive information that a recordable case occurred.

Finally, at the end of the calendar year, you must use OSHA’s Form 300A to summarize the injuries and illnesses listed on Form 300 for the previous calendar year and post Form 300A at your work place from February 1 to April 30.

See future blog posts for more information about Form 301, the Injury and Illness Incident Report; Form 300, the Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses; and Form 300A, the Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses.

Jeffrey Dalto

Jeffrey Dalto

Jeffrey Dalto is an Instructional Designer and the Senior Learning & Development Specialist at Convergence Training. Jeff has worked in education/training for more than twenty years and in safety training for more than ten. You can follow Jeff at LinkedIn as well.

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