Recordkeeping: Its More Than Just Compliance
There are many good reasons for keeping thorough and up-to-date records of accidents and injuries that occur on the job. The primary reason, of course, is compliance with the law. But a thorough reporting and recordkeeping system can also provide you with valuable information concerning accident patterns and prevention. Being able to observe injury and illness trends in the workplace over a span of time helps identify shortfalls or omissions in training, and allows an opportunity to strengthen the overall safety of the workplace.
When to Record
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires most employers to maintain OSHA records/forms for all “OSHA recordable” injuries and illnesses. Employers meeting the requirements for a smallemployer exemption or who are engaged in what are known as a ”partially exempt industry” may be exempt from maintaining these records. For employers who do not meet those exemptions, injuries and illnesses must be recorded if they:
- Involve an employee
- Are work-related
- Are a new case, meaning that the employee has not previously experienced a recorded injury or illness
- of the same type that affects the same part of the body or that the employee previously experienced
- such an injury or illness, but completely recovered
- Result in death, days away from work, restricted work or job transfer, medical treatment beyond first
- aid, or loss of consciousness
- Are a significant work-related injury or illness that is diagnosed by a physician or other licensed
- healthcare professional
- Result from a needlestick injury or a cut from a sharp object that is contaminated with another person’s
- blood or other potentially infectious material
- Result in the medical removal of an employee under the medical surveillance requirements of an OSHA standard
- Involve occupational hearing loss
- Involve an occupational exposure to tuberculosis and subsequent development of the infection
Organizations regulated by OSHA are required to maintain a log (OSHA Form 300) and an annual summary (OSHA Form 300A) of occupational injuries and illnesses, as well as a supplementary record of each recordable injury or illness (OSHA Form 301). These records must be kept up to date and must be made available to OSHA and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) on request. You must retain them on file for at least 5 years.
State laws often also require you to keep safety and health records and to file reports. Workers’ compensation laws, for example, may require accident reports.
Even if an employer is not required to maintain records, it is still a good idea to do so.
Accident Reporting and Prevention
In addition to complying with the law, a thorough reporting and recordkeeping system can also help you prevent future accidents. For example, studying these records can reveal areas in which accidents are on the increase, safety procedures that have brought the best results, and even new approaches to accident prevention.
Above all, the process of conducting an accident investigation and filling out a written accident report focuses attention on what has occurred, thus forcing your safety management team to consider what might have been done (or could be done) to avoid the incident.
Most accident reports focus on uncovering and recording the vital facts and circumstances surrounding an accident as soon as possible after it has occurred. These “key facts” usually include:
- Nature of the injury
- Part of the body injured or affected by the injury
- Source of the injury-the object, substance, or bodily motion that produced the injury
- Type of accident or manner in which the person was injured
- Hazardous condition or circumstances Recordkeepingsurrounding the accident
- Agency of the accident-the object, substance, or part of the premises in which the hazardous condition existed
- Unsafe act that caused or permitted the accident to occur
These items not only enable supervisors and safety committees to fill out the required report forms, but also help your organization evaluate the progress of your safety or accident-prevention program. If additional safety training or changes in procedures and equipment are needed, the investigation and reporting process usually makes it clear exactly what should be done.
Of course, in order to report or document workplace injuries and illnesses, the employer needs to be aware when they occur. Minor injuries often go unreported by employees for various reasons- embarrassment or fear of discipline chief among them. These situations, and possible solutions will be the focus of tomorrow’s post.
- Preparing Your OSHA 300 Log (unitedallianceservices.typepad.com)
- Top 5 Safety Tips Every Business Owner Should Know (score.org)