The majority of employers with 10 employees or more are required under the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) guidelines to keep a record of serious work-related injuries and illness. Only certain low-risk industries are exempted. Minor injuries that require only first-aid do not need to be recorded.
What is a Reportable Incident?
A “serious incident” is specifically defined as,
- Any work-related fatality.
- Any work-related injury or illness resulting in loss of consciousness, days away from work, restricted work, or transfer to another job.
- Any work-related injury requiring medical treatment beyond first aid.
- Any work-related diagnosed case of cancer, chronic irreversible diseases, fractured or cracked bones or teeth and punctured eardrums.
- Needlesticks and sharps injuries, medical removal, hearing loss, and tuberculosis.
There is no legal responsibility to record “near misses” or near accidents, but the regulators recommend that any such incidents also be reported because the reports will enable them to fill out a statistical profile of health and safety in the American workplace.
First aid is also specifically defined in the standards.
- Use of non-prescription medication or medication at less than prescription potency. For purposes of recording, any medication prescribed or recommended by a physician or licensed health care professional upgrades the incident to one that has to be recorded).
- Administering tetanus shots, cleaning, flushing or soaking wounds on the surface of the skin. Other immunizations such as hepatitis B or rabies vaccine elevates the incident to one that has to be recorded.
- Using temporary wound coverings like bandages, band-Aids, gauze, butterfly bandages, or Steri-Strips. If a wound is covered with sutures or staples the incident is upgraded to a reportable one.
- Using hot or cold therapy.
- Use of non-rigid supports like elastic bandages, wraps, non-rigid back belts is first aid. The use of rigid support devices like splints, slings, neck collars, backboards and the like upgrades the incident to a reportable one.
- Using temporary immobilization devices for transport. Drilling a fingernail or toenail for pressure relief or draining fluid from a blister.
- Using eye patches.
- Using irrigation, cotton swabs, or other simple means of removing a foreign object from the eye.
- Using finger guards.
- Using messages for muscle events. Physical therapy or chiropractic treatment upgrades the incident to a reportable one.
The Reporting Requirements.
Records of reportable incidents must be maintained at the worksite for at least five years. During the period from February through March, employers must prominently post a summary of the injuries and illnesses recorded the previous year. Copies of these reports have to be made available to employees (both current and past) on request. Downloadable forms 300, 300A and 301 are to be used for recording the incidents. These forms have space for employee’s name, job title, injury data, where the event occurred, a description of the injury, scales to indicate severity, number of days of work missed, and type of injury or illness. The forms have space for summary numbers.
Penalties for Non-Compliance.
The purpose of OSHA recordkeeping and reporting is to enable the regulators to gauge the state of safety and health in the American workplace using accurate data. The cost of non-compliance with the regulations can be considerable. The penalties mandated by the OSHA are specific to occupational and health plans operated by the federal government. States that operate their own plans are required to adopt maximum penalty levels that are at least as effective as the federal penalty standard.
As of 2016, penalties for non-compliance have increased by more than 80 percent over previous years with the 2016 OSHA Final Rule.
- False statements in the reports carry a fine of $17,800 and 6 months in jail.
- The OSHA fine for failing to report an injury has increased by 400 percent to $5,000 per incident from $1,000.
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