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The process of determining recordability can sometimes be very taxing—both professionally and emotionally. If you’re like most EHS professionals, it’s one of the more stressful parts of your job, especially when you have to tell a member of management that they’ve had a recordable injury.
When incentive bonuses are tied to incident rates and when leadership teams are more focused on keeping something from being a recordable rather than on preventing recurrence, that can often be a signal of a safety culture that is in need of improvement.
In this two-part series, we will try to lessen the burden of making recordability determinations and provide a simplified explanation of what you need to know about revisions to the recordkeeping standards where your 300 forms and electronic reporting are concerned.
First things first! Let’s talk about injuries and illnesses and how they are classified by OSHA. How OSHA differentiates between “first aid” injuries and “recordable” injuries is not that complicated however, it’s one of the most misinterpreted standards. As a result, many injuries that should be recorded aren’t. This is a problem because injury and illness data has several important functions and uses.
The most basic function of injury and illness data is to help employers understand where their hazards are so they can be corrected. In addition, injury and illness data helps OSHA determine whether regulatory intervention is needed or whether a current federal standard needs to be revised. Some of the most prolific updates to federal safety standards in the past 20 years have been the result of injury and illness data. Finally, this data is what the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) uses to generate important national statistics on safety in the workplace.
When an injury or illness occurs in the workplace, a determination must be made whether it’s a first aid injury/illness or it’s a recordable injury or illness and must be entered on the 300 Log. In some cases, a recordable injury might also be a “reportable” injury—but we’ll get to that later.
How an injury or illness is classified is really based on three key pieces of information: work relatedness, the severity of the injury or illness and how the injury was treated. In some cases, the type of injury plays a part as well. To help understand how an incident should be classified, OSHA created an interactive recordkeeping advisor that asks a series of questions about an incident, providing you with their best suggestion regarding recordability.
The first piece of information needed when making a recordability determination is whether the injury or illness is considered “work related”. Some employers believe that what constitutes “work related” is up to their discretion or to the discretion of their Workers Compensation provider—but it’s not. Of course, Workers Compensation is free to decide what they feel is compensable and what isn’t—but that has no bearing on recordability (which we’ll discuss later in more detail).
OSHA considers an injury or illness to be work related if an “event or exposure in the work environment either caused or contributed to the resulting condition or significantly aggravated a pre-existing injury or illness.”
There are several exceptions to this which can be found in the standard however, OSHA makes it very clear that worked relatedness is “presumed” for injuries and illnesses that happen from events or exposures that take place in the work environment.
For an injury or illness to be classified as a first aid, the treatment received must fit into the list of treatments below. OSHA was very specific about this list being “all inclusive” so if the injury or illness treatment an employee received is not on this list—it’s not a first aid injury!
What constitutes a recordable injury or illness is a little more complicated. For the purpose of making this a bit easier to understand, we’ve divided what situations constitute a “recordable” into four sections:
The first section are the “automatics”. Anytime a workplace injury or illness results one or more of the following situations, the injury is automatically classified as a recordable.
A note about “restricted work”: Not all work restrictions constitute “restricted work”. Only those work restrictions preventing an employee from performing one or more routine job functions (activities performed regularly at least once per week) and/or that prevent an employee from working their full workday—whether they are given directly or recommended by a licensed medical professional—constitute “restricted work”.
Here are two examples:
The second section deals with significant workplace injuries and illnesses that are diagnosed by a licensed medical professional and include (but are not limited to) things like workplace related cases of cancer, chronic irreversible diseases, fractured or cracked bones or teeth and punctured eardrums. Sometimes these types of injuries and illnesses will not result in medical treatment or the medical treatment will be delayed—but they are still considered recordable injuries because of the severity.
The third section deals with special situations such as work-related cases involving needlesticks and sharps, medical removal, hearing loss cases and cases of tuberculosis. If you’re not familiar with the term “medical removal”, this means anytime an employee is medically removed under the medical surveillance requirements of an OSHA standard. These cases usually involve standards dealing with specific chemicals such as lead, benzene, formaldehyde, etc.
The fourth section deals with injuries and illnesses where medical treatment beyond first aid is provided or should have been treated. These treatments include:
One of the most hotly debated and misunderstood types of medical treatment beyond first aid from the list above is the use of prescription medications. OSHA addresses most of these misconceptions in a very thorough letter of interpretation from February of 2007 which ultimately states once a medical professional writes a prescription to treat an injury or illness, it’s a recordable injury—regardless of whether that prescription is filled, used or declined and regardless of whether a company doctor or another doctor reviews the case and decides the prescription wasn’t necessary.
The reason for OSHA’s response goes back to what we originally discussed in this article—recordable injuries and illnesses are generally determined by their severity and how they are treated—regardless of whether the treatment is accepted by the employee or not.
There is often a lot of confusion about injury and/or illness reporting when it comes to temporary workers. The key to understanding who is responsible for reporting injuries and/or illnesses of temporary workers comes down to one thing: supervision.
Per 29 CFR 1904.31, the employer that provides the day-to-day supervision of temporary workers (also called the “host” employer) is responsible for reporting these injuries and/or illnesses to OSHA. The host employer should also be including any injuries and/or illnesses that are considered “recordable” to their 300 Log.
Now let’s talk about Workers Compensation and how it applies to recordability. The simple answer is that it doesn’t. When trying to determine whether an injury or illness is a considered “recordable” or not, whether the case is considered compensable and covered by Workers Compensation is not a consideration. There are situations where injuries and illnesses may fit into the criteria of being a recordable but aren’t compensable under Workers Compensation and vice versa.
Some companies believe that if a Workers Compensation carrier decides that a specific injury or illness is “not compensable” because they don’t believe it to be work related that this somehow affects recordability—but don’t fall into this trap. These two things are not related and if you’re relying on your Workers Compensation provider to make work relatedness determinations before you determine whether an injury or illness is a recordable, you’re setting yourself up for a serious penalty—especially if the injury or illness is not entered onto your 300 Log within seven calendar days after you receive information that a recordable work-related injury or illness has occurred. The only benefit that a denied Workers Compensation claim can provide is as supporting evidence if a 300 Log entry is “redlined” or based on a thorough investigation, the injury or illness no longer meets the criteria to be considered a recordable.
In part 2 of this two part series, we will talk about 300 forms and outline the recent revisions to the recordkeeping standards to include a discussion about electronic reporting.
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