EHS Management, Recordkeeping

Understanding—and Fulfilling—Your Safety Recordkeeping and Reporting Obligations

Employer recordkeeping and reporting requirements appear throughout the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) workplace safety and health regulations. Depending on the nature of your business, not all apply to your company and your employees.

Safety recordkeeping and reporting

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However, nearly all U.S. employers are required to complete three OSHA forms:

  • Form 300, the Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses;
  • Form 301, an Injury and Illness Incident Report, which must be completed whenever there is a work-related injury or illness at a facility; and
  • Form 300A, the Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses, which must be filed annually with federal or state agencies.

The forms must be retained for 5 years and provided to OSHA enforcement personnel whenever the agency inspects a workplace or investigates an accident, injury, or illness.

There are a few exemptions from the recordkeeping requirements. Some employers are exempt due to size. Some employers—like attorneys’ offices, churches, and jewelry stores—are exempt due to industry classification unless OSHA, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, or a state agency asks the employer to complete and maintain injury and illness records.

All employers required to keep injury and illness records must complete and post the previous year’s Form 300A Summary in the workplace from February 1 to April 30 each year. However, establishments that had 250 or more employees at any point during the previous calendar year must also submit the Form 300A to OSHA electronically by March 2 each year. Establishments in certain high-hazard industries that had 20 to 249 employees during the previous calendar year must also submit the Form 300A electronically. The industries are listed in the appendix to OSHA’s electronic submission regulation and include a broad range of sectors, such as agriculture, construction, manufacturing, services, transportation, and utilities.

OSHA defines a “recordable injury or illness” as:

  • Any work-related injury or illness requiring medical treatment beyond first aid;
  • Any work-related injury or illness resulting in a loss of consciousness, days away from work, restricted work, or transfer to another job;
  • Any work-related fatality; and
  • Any work-related diagnosed case of cancer, chronic irreversible diseases, fractured or cracked bones or teeth, and punctured eardrums.

There also are special recording criteria for work-related cases involving hearing loss, medical removal, needlesticks and sharps injuries, and tuberculosis.

The log of work-related injuries and illnesses requires entries for the employee name and job title, date of the injury or disease onset, where the event occurred, description of the injury or illness or body part affected, and number of days away from work or on restricted duty or a transfer to another job. Cases also must be classified by death or whether the employee remained on the job or had to spend time away from work. The Form 300 log also contains check boxes for hearing loss, injury, poisoning, respiratory condition, skin condition, or other illness.

The Form 301 report for each injury or illness requires greater detail. Questions on the report form include:

  • What was the employee doing just before the incident occurred?
  • What happened?
  • What was the injury or illness?
  • What object or substance directly harmed the employee?
  • If the employee died, when did death occur?

The employer also must record details such as when the employee was hired, when the employee began work the day of the injury or illness, and when the injury or illness occurred. The report also must include treatment information collected from a physician or other health professional.

The Form 300A Summary collects information compiled from entries on the OSHA 300 log. You must report the numbers of cases, days away from work or on job transfer or restricted duty, and types of injuries and illnesses. The summary also must include your Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) or North American Industry Classification System (NAICS), if known.

You can find downloadable versions of the forms on OSHA’s website. OSHA provides copies of the forms as Adobe Acrobat Portable Document Format (PDF) files for printing and Microsoft Excel® templates that can be customized and exported to other applications.

Employers also must immediately report amputations, fatalities, and severe injuries. All work-related fatalities must be reported to OSHA within 8 hours, and all amputations, inpatient hospitalizations, and losses of an eye must be reported within 24 hours.

OSHA will not hesitate to cite and penalize you for failing to report these.

There also are scores of other recordkeeping requirements in other regulations. However, these other recordkeeping requirements are triggered only by the presence of a particular hazard. Some OSHA standards require written compliance programs. Others require detailed exposure monitoring and medical surveillance records.

2016 Electronic Filing Rule

A May 12, 2016, rulemaking would have required employers to electronically file data from their OSHA Form 300 logs and Form 301 reports once a year, as well as their Form 300A summary data. The first submission deadline was July 1, 2017, for Form 300A data from 2016; but the deadline was extended to December 15, 2017. The first submission deadline for Form 300 and 301 data was July 1, 2018. The agency never enforced the submission requirement for Forms 300 and 301 and removed it January 25, 2019.

OSHA never received any submissions of Form 300 and 301 data that would have been required by the May 12, 2016, rulemaking.

Obama administration officials had planned to disclose establishment-specific injury and illness data on OSHA’s website while concealing personal worker information. The rule was designed to “nudge” employers to better protect their employees, then OSHA Administrator David Michaels said at the time. The Agency compared the planned public disclosure of employers’ injury and illness data to the reports of unsanitary conditions at food establishments released by local public health departments.

OSHA later argued in its rescission of the more extensive submission requirements that the Agency might be forced by court order to disclose personal worker information and that the collection of such information could motivate cyberattacks on agency data systems to steal workers’ personal information.

electronic reporting recordkeeping filing

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Electronic Submission Resolved?

Is the issue of an electronic filing requirement for OSHA Form 300 logs and Form 301 reports finally resolved? The Agency rescinded the electronic filing requirements out of a stated concern for worker privacy, retaining only the requirement for submission of 300A summary data. OSHA did not fully address its earlier goal of attempting to shape employer behavior by public disclosure of injury and illness data.

However, the Agency cautioned in its January 25, 2019, rulemaking that records of past injuries and illnesses do not accurately reflect current workplace hazards or a pattern of noncompliance.

The rescinding of the Form 300 and 301 electronic filing requirements prompted a number of responses. Public advocacy groups and several states filed federal suits that have gone nowhere, alleging OSHA failed to provide a full justification for removing the electronic filing requirements. California passed a law ordering the Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) to determine whether the Agency should take any action to fulfill the goals of the original federal rulemaking.

Cal/OSHA accepted written comments and held a public advisory committee meeting on May 9, 2019. Cal/OSHA so far has not moved forward with a rulemaking for electronic submission requirements for injury and illness logs and reports. The state Agency also has not closed the matter.

The issue of electronic filing requirements is by no means settled. Supporters of the requirements are not going away. Labor union officials called the Trump administration’s privacy concerns “disingenuous,” and labor union support for the rescinded rule is at least as strong as industry opposition to the Obama administration’s original rulemaking.

A change in administration could see it revived.

Because OSHA lacks the personnel to inspect all U.S. workplaces, labor unions and other safety advocates continually look for ways to affect employer behavior. For example, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), and others have called for the disclosure of injury and illness records for Amazon’s distribution warehouses.

Other Recordkeeping Requirements

Some employers must keep records besides the injury and illness logs, incident reports, and annual summaries. Recordkeeping requirements for other OSHA standards include:

  • Exposure measurements, medical surveillance, and training records for dozens of standards covering workplace exposures to hazardous and toxic substances, such as asbestos, hexavalent chromium, and lead;
  • Air quality testing in underground construction;
  • Confined space entry permits;
  • Crane operator training;
  • Fall protection plans and practices;
  • Medical evaluation and respirator fit testing under the respiratory protection standard;
  • Inspection, testing, and training performed in compliance with the standard for process safety management of highly hazardous chemicals;
  • Medical surveillance and training required by the hazardous waste operations and emergency response (HAZWOPER) standard;
  • A Hazard Communication (HAZCOM) program and safety data sheets for all hazardous chemicals used or stored at a facility;
  • Exposure monitoring and audiometric testing records for occupational noise exposure;
  • Inspection and maintenance records for fire suppression systems;
  • Inspection and load-testing records for overhead and gantry cranes and crawler locomotive and truck cranes;
  • Inspection and maintenance, operator training, and safety system certification records for mechanical power presses, as well as inspection and maintenance records for forging machines;
  • Inspection, maintenance, testing, and training records for powered platforms; and
  • Inventory records for explosives and blasting agents.

Dates to Remember

Your paperwork burden will almost certainly include injury and illness recordkeeping. Depending on the hazards present in the workplace posed by equipment and machinery, hazardous substances, or occupational noise, you may have to keep scores of other records for compliance programs, exposure monitoring, and medical surveillance.

Injury and illness logs and reports must be kept current. A summary of injuries and illnesses must be posted annually in the workplace and submitted to OSHA or your state occupational safety and health agency. Fatalities and severe injuries must be reported immediately.

OSHA often cites and sometime penalizes employers for recordkeeping violations in addition to whatever other safety and health violations agency inspectors find during an inspection or accident investigation.

Keep in mind that:

  • The OSHA Form 300A Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses for the previous calendar year must be posted from February 1 to April 30 each year;
  • OSHA Form 300A must be submitted electronically by March 2;
  • Form 300 logs and Form 301 reports must be retained for 5 years following the calendar year and made available to OSHA enforcement personnel during a workplace inspection or investigation;
  • All work-related fatalities must be reported to OSHA within 8 hours; and
  • All inpatient hospitalizations, amputations, and losses of an eye must be reported within 24 hours.