Buried in the OSHA regulations are some statements that would make anyone shudder who is responsible for compliance.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is the federal agency charged with the enforcement of safety and health legislation. Under OSHA law, employers have the responsibility to provide a safe workplace. The law requires most employers to prepare and maintain records of serious injuries and illnesses using the OSHA 300 log. This information is used in evaluating the safety of a workplace, understanding its hazards, and implementing worker protections to reduce and eliminate hazards.
So what’s the big deal?
Buried in the OSHA regulations are some statements that would make anyone shudder who is responsible for compliance. It’s referred to as rule 29 CFR Part 1904 of the OSHA Act, and it states:
Whoever knowingly makes any false statement, representation, or certification in any applica-
tion, record, report, plan or other document filed
or required to be maintained pursuant to this Act shall, upon conviction, be punished by a fine of not more than $10,000, or by imprisonment for not more than six months, or by both.
Any employer who violates any of the posting requirements, as prescribed under the provisions
of this Act, shall be assessed a civil penalty of up to $7,000 for each violation.
When an authorized government representative asks for the records within four (4) business hours.
The rule requires each employer to set up a method for employees to report injuries and illnesses. Employers also must tell each employee how to report. This is a basic step to make sure employees report cases so they can get into the records. Incidents are to be reported on Form 301.
Employers also are required to provide the records to employees. The 300 log must be available to employees, former employees, and employee representatives by the end of the next business day. An employee, former employee, or personal representative is allowed to receive a copy of his or her 301 form. An authorized representative can obtain the 301 information for all the injuries and illnesses at the establishment, but only information about the injury or illness. That information is provided on the right side of the 301 form.
Sub part E includes the requirements for providing information to the government. The federal government conducts two surveys of 1904 information-one by OSHA and one by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. If employers receive a form for either survey in the mail, they must complete and return the form using the instructions on the form.
It’s important to remember that employers with fewer than 10 employees and those in a few select categories, such as doctors’ and dentists’ offices, are partially exempt from OSHA’s record keeping requirements. But all employers are required to report work-related fatalities to OSHA within eight hours of learning of the incident. A work related amputation, loss of an eye, or the inpatient hospitalization of one or more employees must be reported to OSHA within 24 hours of learning of the incident. An employer is required to record a case within seven calendar days.
Although in most cases the forms are completed by HR and safety professionals, it’s usually a senior officer of the company who signs the 300 summary under a statement that reads: “I certify that I have examined this document and to the best of my know ledge the en tries are true, accurate, and complete.” This
document, called Summary of Work Related Injuries and Illnesses (OSHA Form 300A), then must be posted from February 1 to April 30. It must be displayed in a common area where notices to employees are usually posted. That’s why it’s critical that the information be accurate, not only for the senior leader but also for the middle manager who will be praised or reprimanded depending on the accuracy.
In 2013 Home Depot was cited for failing to review, sign, and provide record keeping documents within four hours as requested by OSHA inspectors. Lowe’s was cited in 2011 for failing to ensure that the highest level executive examined and signed the OSHA 300 log. In most cases these violations are part of a long list that
comes from planned or unplanned inspections.
This could get even more interesting because a proposed rule would allow OSHA to make changes to its reporting system for occupational injuries and illnesses. According to OSHA, an updated reporting system would allow for more efficient and timely collection of data and would improve the accuracy and availability of the relevant records and statistics. This rule would expand OSHA’s legal authority to collect and make available injury and illness information required under part 1904, and another change would clarify an employee’s right to report injury and illness to the employer without fear of retaliation. The rule would require companies with more than 250 employees to transfer their OSHA logs to OSHA and open them to anyone to view as part of President Obama’s Open Government Initiative. The rule could receive final approval this year, so it would be wise to advise employers to prepare now by reviewing their OSHA log reporting compliance.
Here is a checklist to help prepare your clients:
- Are occupational injuries or illnesses, except minor injuries requiring only first aid, recorded as required on the OSHA 300 log?
- Are employee medical records and records of employee exposure to hazardous substances or harmful physical agents up to date and in compliance with current OSHA standards?
- Are employee training records maintained and accessible for review by employees as required by OSHA standards?
- Have arrangements been made to retain records for the time period required for each specific type of record? (Some records must be maintained for at least 40 years.)
- Are operating permits and records up to date for equipment such as elevators, air pressure tanks, and liquefied petroleum gas tanks?
- Are emergency telephone numbers posted where they can be readily found in case of emergency?
- Where employees may be exposed to toxic substances or harmful physical agents, have appropriate information concerning employee access to medical and exposure records and Safety Data Sheets (SDSs), formally known as Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs), been posted or otherwise made readily available to affected employees?
- Are signs concerning exit routes, room capacities, floor loading, bio hazards, x-ray, microwave, or other harmful radiation or substances posted where appropriate?
- Is the Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses (OSHA Form 300A) posted during the months of February, March, and April? In the insurance industry, we are all familiar with insurance company loss runs. It’s standard practice to use them in the underwriting and pricing process. But drilling down into the OSHA logs data gives an even clearer view of the real risk and is a metric used to compare a company’s safety performance against a national or state average. Risk advisers who go beyond selling insurance policies are well positioned to help companies cope with the complexity of compliance issues like OSHA to avoid fines and penalties and manage risk more effectively. This leads to a safer workplace, lower insurance premiums, and a healthier bottom line.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to give Gallen Insurance a call at (610) 777-4123.
This article was originally published by Randy Boss, in Rough Notes Magazine.