Injury & Illness Recordkeeping

On December 19, 2016, the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) issued a final rule amending its record keeping regulations, located at 29 C.F.R. Part 1904. The Amendment clarifies that a covered employer has an on-going obligation to create and maintain accurate records of recordable work-place injuries and illnesses. It did so in response to the decision in AKM LLC v. Secretary of Labor, 675 F.3d 752 (D.C. Cir. 2012).

The Occupational Safety and Health Act (“Act”) requires covered employers to create and preserve records of certain workplace injuries and illnesses that are prescribed by the Secretary of Labor. Pursuant to this delegated authority, OSHA has issued regulations that require covered employers to record workplace injuries and illnesses on the OSHA 301 Incident Report form and on the OSHA 300 Log form, within seven days of learning of a recordable workplace injury or illness, to review the Log for accuracy at the end of each calendar year and to correct any deficiencies found during the annual review.  A covered employer must prepare, certify and post annual summaries of the recordable workplace injuries and illnesses that occurred during the previous year by February 1 and keep them posted until April 30.  OSHA regulations further require covered employers to maintain its Logs, Incident Report forms and annual summaries for five calendar years and to make this information available to its employees, OSHA, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  OSHA may issue citations for violations of the Act, but must do so within six months after “the occurrence of any violation.”  29 U.S.C. § 658(c). The new continuing obligation provides the basis for record-keeping violations to be timely years after a reportable incident under the rationale of the AKM case.

When this final rule becomes effective on January 18, 2017, covered employers will have a continuing obligation to create and maintain accurate records of recordable workplace injuries and illnesses and to update their records during the five year retention period.

To comply with OSHA’s amended regulations, employers should:
  • Ensure that it completed OSHA 301 Incident Report forms for all recordable workplace injuries and illnesses that occurred during the previous year and ensure that its OSHA 300 Log form accurately reports all recordable workplace injuries and illnesses and, if appropriate, update the Log with any recordable workplace injuries and illnesses not previously recorded.
  • Conduct an audit of its OSHA 300 Log forms for the past five years to confirm that they accurately reported all recordable workplace injuries and illnesses that occurred during the past five years. The audit should also include a review of the employer’s OSHA 301 Incident Report forms to ensure that the employer completed forms for each recordable injury and illness during the past five years.

On May 12, 2016, OSHA published significant amendments to its recordkeeping rule, requiring many employers to submit work-related injury and illness Recordkeepinginformation to the agency electronically.  The amendments also include provisions designed to prevent employers from retaliating against employees for reporting injuries and illnesses at work.  The information employers provide will be “scrubbed” of personally identifiable information and published on OSHA’s website in a searchable format.

The Basics

Every workplace with 250 or more employees will be required to electronically submit  OSHA 300 Logs, 301 Forms, and 300A summaries on an annual basis.  Workplaces with 20 or more employees in industries that OSHA has deemed hazardous and listed in the rule must submit OSHA 300A summaries to OSHA electronically on an annual basis as well.  The information kept in the logs and on the forms remains the same, as does the calculus for determining whether an injury or illness is a recordable.

The new requirements will be phased in, requiring employers to electronically submit their 300A summaries on July 1, 2017 and their 300 Logs, 301 Forms and 300A summaries on July 1, 2018.  State plans are required to adopt systems with the same deadlines.

The Problems

OSHA plans to rely upon computer software to remove personally identifiable information from these records.  The software will supposedly remove all of the fields that contain identifiers such as the employee’s name, address, and work title, and to search the narrative field in the form to ensure that no personally identifiable information is contained in it.  OSHA’s reliance on a computer system to detect every piece of identifiable information in a narrative is terribly risky and increases the potential for a data breach.

The publication of this information on a searchable database will allow the public, including the press, to seek out employers with what appear to be higher than average numbers of injuries and illnesses and continue the public shaming campaign so often relied upon by OSHA under the Obama administration.  The public dissemination of this information also simplifies the process of unionization, permitting unions to identify possible targets based on perceived unsafe working conditions.

Although there are already whistleblower protections in place to prevent retaliation by employers when employees report injuries and illnesses, the new rule includes a number of additional anti-retaliation protections, including a provision that dramatically limits an employer’s ability to test for drug use when an employee has been involved in an incident.  Under the new rule, post incident testing is to be limited to situations in which the possibility that the employee was impaired by drug use is quite likely to have contributed to the incident and for which the test can accurately identify impairment caused by drug use.  In many cases, such as when an employee may have been impaired by marijuana at the time of the incident, employers are essentially left with no ability to test as there are multiple ways to test for the presence of the drug in an employee’s system, but no established standard for what constitutes marijuana impairment.  This issue is increasingly important as states such as Colorado make recreational marijuana use lawful.

So What Should Employers Do Now?

  • Train employees on the new rules and when they go into effect.
  • Ensure that employees understand that they will not be retaliated against for reporting work-related injuries and illnesses and are, in fact, encouraged to report them.
  • Re-train the employee(s) responsible for injury and illness recordkeeping on the basics of recordkeeping and provide thorough training on the new rule with an emphasis on protecting personally identifiable information to the extent possible while remaining in compliance with the new regulatory requirements.
  • Review and revise drug testing policies to bring them into compliance with the requirements of the new rule.

Valerie Butera, Member of the Firm in the Labor and Employment practice, will present a complimentary webinar, hosted by Midwest Employers Casualty Company, on January 27 at 11:00 a.m. EST titled “OSHA Forecast: Developments to Watch in 2015 and Beyond.”

This webinar will delve into OSHA issues that will impact a wide range of industries in 2015. In addition to a greater focus on enforcements and inspections, changes will occur for recording injuries and illnesses in the OSHA 300 Injury and Illness Recordkeeping log as well as reporting changes of severe injuries or illnesses.

For more information and to register for this webinar, click here.

See below for a recording of my recent webinar, “OSHA Forecast: Developments to Watch in 2015 and Beyond.”

As I discuss, in 2015, many more industries will for the first time be required by OSHA to record injuries and illnesses in the OSHA 300 Injury and Illness Recordkeeping log. The reporting of severe injuries or illnesses is also changing, and we anticipate a greater focus on enforcements and inspections.

Topics include:

  • Where we are now and the direction of OSHA in 2015
  • Recording and recordkeeping requirements
  • Whistleblowing and its impact on your business
  • Preparing for increased OSHA inspections of incidents
  • Rulemaking and potential changes in current programs
  • Ebola and other infectious diseases

The video is also available on Epstein Becker Green’s Youtube channelclick here to download the slides.

To register for this webinar, please click here.

Join Valerie Butera, Member of the Firm in the Labor and Employment practice on Wednesday, December 10, 2014 at 1:00 p.m. EST for a 60-minute webinar.

This webinar will delve deeper into OSHA issues that will impact a wider range of industries in 2015.   In addition to a greater focus on enforcements and inspections, changes will occur for recording injuries and illnesses in the OSHA 300 Injury and Illness Recordkeeping log as well as reporting changes of severe injuries or illnesses.

Topics will include:

  • Where we are now and the direction of OSHA in 2015
  • Recording and recordkeeping requirements
  • Whistleblowing and its impact on your business
  • Preparing for increased OSHA inspections of incidents
  • Rulemaking and potential changes in current programs
  • Ebola and other infectious diseases

Registration is complimentary.   To register for this webinar, please click here.

The Grain Journal recently published a series of seven articles by the national OSHA Practice Group at Epstein Becker Green.  The articles outline a checklist for employers to follow in order to comply with OSHA’s complex Injury & Illness Recordkeeping regulations. The articles are broken down as follows:

  1. Scope of OSHA’s Injury & Illness Recordkeeping Rule;
  2. OSHA’s Recordkeeping Forms;
  3. Recording Injuries and Illnesses;
  4. Recording Workplace Injuries/Illnesses;
  5. Miscellaneous Recording Procedures;
  6. Updating and Verifying Records; and
  7. Recordkeeping Action Plan.

Here is an excerpt from the article series:

“The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations at 29 CFR 1904 and 1952 set forth a maze of injury and illness recordkeeping and reporting requirements applicable to approximately 1.5 million U.S. workplaces.  OSHA places significant emphasis on injury and illness recordkeeping, because the data culled from employers’ injury and illness logs is used by OSHA to identify workplace safety and health problems and to track progress in solving those problems. OSHA also uses recordkeeping data to improve standards, tailor enforcement programs, and focus individual inspections.

This checklist is intended to help employers decode OSHA’s complex recordkeeping regulations and simplify the process.”

 

The article reflects the collective experience and expertise of Epstein Becker Green’s national OSHA Practice Group.  To access the full article, please click here.

As the clock ticked down and the apple dropped to start a new year, many of us reflected on the year that had passed and our resolutions and New Year’s wishes for the upcoming year.  Probably not many of you were thinking about your resolutions and New Year’s wishes as they related to everybody’s favorite regulatory agency, OSHA, so let us do that for you.  Here are three New Year’s wishes about OSHA enforcement that the national OSHA Practice Group at Epstein Becker & Green hopes to see come true in 2014 for our clients and friends in Industry:

1.      We wish for OSHA to drop or amend its proposed changes to the Injury & Illness Recordkeeping rule.

Late last year, OSHA proposed some major changes to its Injury and Illness Recordkeeping regulations. The proposed rule would transform the current Recordkeeping framework in which employers’ records of workplace injuries remained private to the employer unless: (i) OSHA requests them during an inspection at the workplace; or (ii) the employer receives a rare request for the recordkeeping data from OSHA or the Bureau of Labor Statistics in a special survey.  Under the proposed rule, employers’ injury and illness data will become an open book, requiring the collection of larger amounts of data on work-related injuries and illnesses, as well as making much of that information public.  Here are the major provisions of the proposed rule:

  • Requirements for Large Employers: The new rule will require employers with 250 or more workers to submit to OSHA every quarter the individual entries on their OSHA 300 Logs and the information entered on each OSHA 301 Incident Report.  OSHA would then post the data on its public website after redacting only injured employees’ identifying      information.
  • Requirements for Small Employers: The proposed rule would also require employers with 20 or more workers in designated industries to submit information electronically from their 300A Annual Summary forms to OSHA, which OSHA also intends to publicize.

We anticipate that the new reporting requirements and publication of employers’ injury records will significantly increase the burden on employers, both in man hours and cost, and will trigger significant unexpected implications for the regulated community, including: (i) extraordinary burden on employers to comply; (ii) more inspections and citations by OSHA; (iii) discourage employers from recording all recordable injuries; (iv) invasion of injured employees’ privacy; and (v) harm to employers’ reputations.  The public perception of certain employers may be skewed because this reported information would be publicized. Specifically, under the proposed rule, OSHA would only make public the basic data provided in injury and illness recording forms.  The public, therefore, could take the injury and illness data out of context, as the public would not be privy to the details behind injuries, safety measures employers adopt, how the data compares to industry averages, or any other relevant information related to the circumstances of the injury or illness.  For more information about the proposed rule and its potential impacts, check out our article from last month.

Our New Year’s wish for the regulated community is that this rule not be implemented, or at least for the “publication” element of the rule to be stricken.  OSHA is accepting public comments on the proposed rule as written and several alternatives published in the Federal Register. Considering the extensive impact the proposed rule will have on employers, industry participation in the comment stage of the rulemaking process, especially with the help of experienced OSHA counsel, will be essential in driving fundamental and necessary revisions to the proposed rule.

 

2.      We wish for OSHA to change the way it implements the Severe Violator Enforcement Program to respect Constitutional Due Process.

As one would expect for a program designed for recidivists, the punitive elements of OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program (“SVEP”) are significant, including: (a) inflammatory public press releases branding employers as a “severe violators”; (b) adding employers’ names to a public log of Severe Violators; (c) mandatory follow-up inspections at the cited facilities; (d) numerous inspections (up to ten) at sister facilities within the same corporate enterprise; and (e) enhanced terms in settlements (such as corporate-wide abatement, requiring third party audits, etc.).

Our major frustration with the SVEP is not with the severity of the consequences, it is with the timing in which employers are “qualified” into the Program.  As OSHA currently implements the SVEP, employers are qualified into SVEP before final disposition of the underlying citations.  In other words, employers begin to face the harsh punishments before OSHA has proven that the employer violated the law at all, let alone in the egregious ways that qualify them for SVEP.  We have written extensively about the SVEP here on the OSHA Law Update Blog.  For more information, check out any of these articles.

Our New Year’s wish that OSHA amend the Severe Violator Enforcement Program to delay qualifying employers into the Program until the underlying qualifying citations become a Final Order of the OSH Review Commission.  In the alternative, we wish for a Court to evaluate and strike down the Constitutionality of this element of SVEP.

 

3.      We wish for OSHA to revisit its unlawful interpretation regarding participation in OSHA inspections by union representatives at non-union worksites.

Last year, OSHA issued a formal Interpretation Letter of its regulation governing who may participate in OSHA walkaround inspections (29 C.F.R. 1903.8(c) – Representatives of Employers and Employees). Continue Reading OSHA-Related New Year’s Resolutions and Wishes for 2014

February 1st is an important annual OSHA Injury and Illness Recordkeeping deadline for all U.S. employers, except for those with only ten or fewer employees or who operate in enumerated low hazard industries such as retail, service, finance, insurance or real estate (see the industries partially exempted from OSHA’s Injury & Illness Recordkeeping regulations at Appendix A to Subpart B of Part 1904).  Specifically, by February 1st every year, employers are required

by OSHA’s Recordkeeping regulations to:

  1. Review their OSHA 300 Log;
  2. Verify that the entries are complete and accurate;
  3. Correct any deficiencies on the 300 Log;
  4. Use the injury data from the 300 Log to develop an 300A Annual Summary Form; and
  5. Certify the accuracy of the 300 Log and the 300A Summary Form.

The Form 300A is a summation of the workplace injuries and illnesses recorded on the OSHA 300 Log during the previous calendar year, as well as the total hours worked by all employees covered by the OSHA 300 Log that year.

The 300 Log and the 300A Annual Summary Form are required to be “certified” by a “company executive,” including a signature by the company executive on the 300A Summary Form.  A common mistake that employers make is to have someone sign the 300A Form who is not at a senior enough level to constitute a “company executive.”  The company executive who must certify the 300A must be one of the following:

  • An owner of the company (only if the company is a sole proprietorship or partnership);
  • An officer of the corporation;
  • The highest ranking company official working at the establishment; or
  • The immediate supervisor of the highest ranking company official working at the establishment.

What it is that the company executives are certifying is that they have examined both the OSHA 300 Log and the 300A Annual Summary Form, and that they reasonably believe, based on their knowledge of the process by which the information was recorded, that the 300A Annual Summary Form is correct and complete.

After certifying the recordkeeping documents, OSHA’s Recordkeeping regulations require employers to post the signed copy of the 300A Summary Form in the location at the workplace where employee notices are usually posted.  The 300A must remain posted there for three months, through April 30th.

Another common mistake employers make is to not prepare or post a 300A Form if there were no recordable injuries or illnesses during the year.  In that instance, OSHA regulations still require employers to completely fill out the Form 300A, enter zeros for each column total, and post the 300A just the same.

After April 30th, employers can take down the 300A Form, but must keep (at a central location or at the facility to which the forms apply) a copy of the OSHA 300 Log, the 300A Annual Summary Form, and any corresponding 301 Incident Report forms for five years following the end of the calendar year that those records cover.  Here are exemplars of all the OSHA Recordkeeping forms.

One more common mistake employers make is to put away the old 300 Logs, and never look back, even if new information comes to light about injuries recorded on those logs.  OSHA’s Recordkeeping regulations require employers to update OSHA 300 Logs with newly discovered recordable injuries or illnesses, or to reflect changes that have occurred in the classification or other details of previously recorded injuries and illnesses during the five year retention period.  Note, this requirement applies only to the 300 Logs; there is no duty to update 300A Forms or the OSHA 301 Incident Reports.

EBG’s OSHA Injury and Illness Recordkeeping Checklist is a great resource to consult when annually reviewing, verifying, and certifying your Recordkeeping logs and forms.

Last month, we published an article about OSHA’s proposed new Injury and Illness Recordkeeping and Reporting rule that would create a minefield for hundreds of thousands of employers nationwide.  In a January 6, 2014 press release, OSHA announced that it would extend the comment period for this proposed rule by 30 days in response to a request from the National Association of Home Builders (“NAHB”).  NAHB made the request because the rulemaking overlaps with the proposed crystalline silica rulemaking and it needed more time to disseminate the relevant information to its members and coordinate responses.  March 8, 2014 is now the deadline by which all interested parties must submit comments

on the injury and illness recordkeeping and reporting rule, replacing the original deadline of February 8, 2014.  For planning purposes, note that the new comment deadline is on a Saturday (likely because OSHA was looking at a 2013 calendar when setting it).

OSHA’s proposed rule lays out several major changes, including requiring employers to electronically submit to OSHA their injury and illness records, whereas the current rule require employers to maintain these records internally, and to share them only in very limited circumstances.  That is hardly the most troublesome element of the proposed new rule, however.  OSHA also intends now to broadcast the injury and illness information on a public website, for no legitimate safety reason.  Indeed, OSHA has no reason to advertise employers’ injury and illness information other than for public shaming.  Employers, therefore, are rightfully concerned about the rule.

Employers and trade associations have expressed a host of different concerns about the proposal to publicize injury and illness records:

  1. Employers fear that publicized injury and illness records will be mischaracterized, and employers’ public perceptions will be unjustly skewed.  Without context as to how the injuries actually occurred and what safety measures the employer had implemented to prevent workplace injuries, the public could jump to incorrect and harmful conclusions about the employer.
  2. Unions will almost certainly use the out-of-context injury and illness information to mislead employees to facilitate organizing campaigns or to advance their interests in contract negotiations.
  3. The publication of injury data will likely discourage some employers from recording all injuries and illnesses, driving the precise opposite result OSHA was hoping to achieve.
  4. Publication of injury and illness records may also lead to disclosure of employers’ proprietary information as well as private health information of injured employees.
  5. OSHA’s publication of injury and illness records deliberately places fault for all injuries upon the employer, despite the express understanding during the rulemaking for the original Recordkeeping rule that the act of recording workplace injuries should not create any implication of fault.  OSHA has recognized that many injuries and illnesses caused in the workplace are outside employers’ control.  This proposal to publish the injury information, however, implies that all recorded injuries were the fault of the employer, because OSHA’s sole motivation for publishing the information is to hold employers accountable in the eyes of the public.

Employers have also presented concerns about the cost and burden of actually submitting the injury and illness information to OSHA electronically, as set forth in the proposed rule.  The literature included with the proposed rule suggests that OSHA assumes a majority of employers already keep their injury and illness records electronically, so submission to OSHA should be doable without much extra time or expense.  Most employers, however, particularly small businesses, still keep injury records in hard copy.  Therefore, the time and expense to comply with the new rule will be far greater than predicted by OSHA, especially if the employer has 250 or more employees and, therefore, must submit records to OSHA four times every year. Continue Reading OSHA Extends Comment Period for Controversial Injury and Illness Recordkeeping Rule

Last month, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) put out a press release announcing a proposed new rule that would significantly increase employers’ injury and illness recordkeeping and reporting responsibilities.  OSHA first submitted its proposal to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (“OIRA”) two years ago, on November 22, 2011, but OIRA did not approve the proposed rule to advance through the rulemaking process until last month.

In essence, the proposed rule would transform the current Recordkeeping framework in which employers’ records of workplace injuries remained private to the employer unless: (i) OSHA requests them during an inspection at the workplace; or (ii) the employer receives a rare request for the recordkeeping data from OSHA or the Bureau of Labor Statistics (“BLS”) for survey purposes.

Under the proposed rule, employers’ injury and illness data will become an open book, requiring the collection of larger amounts of data on work-related injuries and illnesses, as well as making much of that information public.  Dr. David Michaels, the Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA, has expressed publicly that “[t]his is not an enforcement initiative,” but employers are rightfully concerned about the ramifications of this new proposed rule.

OSHA’s Current Reporting Practices

Currently, OSHA compels employers to report a workplace injury or illness to OSHA or to produce injury and illness recordkeeping data to OSHA or the BLS in only four circumstances:

  1. the injury or illness results in death or the overnight hospitalization for more than observation of three or more employees;
  2. the recordkeeping data (e.g., OSHA 300 logs, 300A Annual Summaries, or 301 incident reports) is requested or subpoenaed during an enforcement inspection by OSHA at the employer’s workplace;
  3. the recordkeeping data is requested pursuant to OSHA’s Data Initiative Survey specific to certain industries with high rates of occupational injuries and illnesses; and
  4. recordkeeping forms are requested by BLS for its Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses, for which a select few representative employers are requested to participate each year.

In conjunction with the new rulemaking, OSHA claims that these four outlets for the Department of Labor to acquire injury and illness data are insufficient because the information is generally not collected timely, is too limited in scope, and is often not establishment-specific.  OSHA believes that the proposed rule, detailed below, would resolve these so-called insufficiencies.

Provisions of the Proposed Rule

OSHA’s new Recordkeeping rule proposal contains three major provisions:

  1. Requirements for Large Employers (250+ Employees):  If implemented, the new rule will require employers who had 250 or more workers (including full-time, part-time, temporary, and seasonal workers) at peak employment during the prior calendar year to submit to OSHA every quarter the individual entries on their OSHA 300 Logs and the information entered on each OSHA 301 Incident Report.  OSHA would then post the data on its public website after redacting only injured employees’ identifying information.  Employers will submit this information through a secure website using direct data entry into a template form or by uploading electronic documents already maintained by the employer.  Approximately 38,000 private employers nationwide would be covered by this provision, and OSHA predicts the cost to each of these employers would be only approximately $183 per year.
  2. Requirements for Small Employers (20+ Employees):  The proposed rule would also require employers with 20 or more workers in designated industries to submit information electronically from their 300A Annual Summary forms to OSHA, which OSHA also intends to publicize.  Employers will submit this information through the same secure website using direct data entry or through a batch file upload.  This portion of the proposed rule projects to impact approximately 441,000 employer establishments, and OSHA estimates the cost at only approximately $9 per employer per year.
  3. Requirements for All Employers:  Under the proposed rule, any employer who receives notification of a request from OSHA must submit information from its injury and illness records (i.e., 300 Logs, 301 forms, and 300A Annual Summaries) for the time periods specified in OSHA’s notification.  This provision only requires submission after notification by OSHA.  Through this provision, OSHA intends to collect data specific to certain industries or hazards.

Dr. Michaels has stated that the information collected from employers through these three data-collection provisions will be used to help employers better identify and eliminate hazards, determine where OSHA’s consultation and educational resources should be focused, and direct inspection priorities.  OSHA has also suggested that the proposed rule imposes only a slight burden on employers, because those subject to the proposed rule are already required to record the information now being demanded for production.

We anticipate, however, that the new reporting requirements and publication of employers’ records as set forth in the proposed rule will significantly increase the burden on employers, both in man hours and cost, and will trigger significant unexpected implications for the regulated community.

Top 5 Impacts to Industry From the Proposed Recordkeeping Rule

  1. Unforeseen (Grossly Underestimated) Costs of Compliance:  We are deeply concerned about the inaccuracy of OSHA’s cost estimates around this rule.  In addition to the burdensome steps outlined in the rule, the proposed rule will likely require employers to take additional steps outside of those described by OSHA to comply.  For instance, Continue Reading OSHA Proposes Intrusive and Burdensome New Injury & Illness Recordkeeping and Reporting Rule