DO YOU OFFER OTHER SERVICES BEYOND OSHA RECORD KEEPING?

Yes. My practice is oriented toward executive management solutions; I assist organizations to reduce loss and maximize revenue. I assist to identify management and operational deficiencies. These weak spots can be found everywhere. Many times it's something as simple as an overlooked procedure or just one careless supervisor allowing loss scenarios to persist. Think of a neglected and rusty door hinge. No matter how strong the door is or what it cost, the door does no good if the hinge breaks. I help to remedy organizational deficiencies before they break an entire company.

I do a lot of written policy and program review; the aims are to remove language that introduces liability and ensure regulatory compliance. Contract writing constitutes a lot of my business and I've even written content for exam preparation guides for Board of Certified Safety Professionals exams. Due to my OSHA experience and an analytical approach to problem solving, I'm also frequently contacted for compliance concerns.

DOES OSHA CITE FOR RECORD KEEPING ERRORS?

Yes, though they are not very common. I do expect the volume of citations issued to increase since OSHA has stated that they will be utilizing the new rule to enhance enforcement.

The first scenario is when an establishment does not have any logs whatsoever. In this event, the citation criteria is whether there are injuries or illnesses that were required to be recorded. If there haven't been any cases that require recording, then there will be no citations. If there have been cases that require recording, then OSHA may issue a serious citation.

When there are record keeping errors, the citation criteria is the usefulness of the data. The following is an example of one of the most common record keeping errors I've observed.

Assume a welder didn't have appropriate eye protection and missed two days away from work due to "welding flash," essentially a sunburn of the cornea (ultraviolet light). Many professionals incorrectly identify the case as an "Injury" and not "All other illnesses." This is not correct because radiation burns (which this is) fall under "All other illnesses" and not "Injury," as is the case for thermal or chemical burns. And some people say OSHA recordkeeping isn't fun! In this scenario, a citation shouldn't be issued. It's a simple error, but most importantly, the data is still useful. At this point, it's just a simple change to identify it as "All other illnesses." If you have been cited for simple error like this or feel that OSHA was overzealous in this regard (or in any other situation), please contact me for assistance.

When the data is useless or incomprehensible, then OSHA may issue an other than serious citation. This is usually because the person performing the record keeping duties just wasn't familiar with the essentials; flagrant scenarios like simply not caring aren't as typical. The point of recording this data is so we can analyze our workplace injury trends, determine why one department experiences more loss than a similar one, etc., so we can do something about it. Useless data is, well, useless. To help ensure you're logging entries correctly, please consider the 0.4 CEU online workshop.

CAN WE BE DISQUALIFIED FROM A PROJECT BECAUSE OF OUR INCIDENT RATES?

Yes. And, now that an establishment's record keeping data will be publicly available, there is no reason why a hiring client wouldn't rely on this data to qualify potential bidders for work. Many private sector and government projects already require the submission of record keeping data so incident rates can be reviewed. Assuming the data is correct, it would be risky on the part of the hiring client to award a bid to a contractor with incident rates higher than the national average (for their NAICS code) when others are available with rates below the national average. Many construction contractors also require subs to submit this data as part of their pre-qualification process; I advise every one of my construction clients to do so. Simply put, unnecessary risk should not be tolerated.

This is why correct log entry is so important! Assume four cases were recorded on the OSHA 300 log (and 300A summary), but only two of them actually met the 1904 standard criteria for recording. In this scenario, the company's incident rate will be 2X higher than it really is, which could disqualify the employer from work. This is especially a concern for small businesses because the OSHA incident rates are formulated to reflect larger employers and don't scale well for employers with only a few dozen employees. For small businesses, even a single mistake can be very consequential. Hiring clients have no reason to spend time determining whether a bidder's case data is free of errors; they assume the submitted data is correct (which it should be). I help to ensure that it's correct. I've helped many employers to get back onto job sites that they were removed from because their incident rates were artificially inflated above what they truly were.

DOES OSHA USE INCIDENT RATES FOR ENFORCEMENT PURPOSES?

Yes. And, this is not new. When OSHA proposed the rule to require electronic submission of record keeping data, many people were concerned that OSHA would begin using the data for enforcement targeting. OSHA has been using this data to dial in their enforcement efforts for many years. Some of the agency's National, Regional, and Local Emphasis programs (which allow inspections to be conducted without first having received a complaint or referral or the observation of an imminent danger situation) are based on incident rates, which are derived from record keeping data). Currently, OSHA targets industries with very high incident rates for enforcement activities and not individual business establishments. This could change. For example, establishments with incident rates 50% greater than their industry average could be selected for programmed inspections. But, this would require further rulemaking, so it won't be a surprise if it happens.

WHO HAS ACCESS TO OUR OSHA RECORDKEEPING LOGS?

Until 2017, there were only a limited number of parties who could have access to your data. The first scenario was an inspection; the compliance officer could review your logs for the prior three calendar years. The second scenario was data collection initiatives. The OSHA Data Initiative (ODI) collected record keeping data from 80,000 establishments. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Survey of Occupational Injuries & Illnesses (SOII) collected data from 200,000 establishments. Perhaps your company has provided this information previously. The last scenario was (and still is) client pre-qualification; more facilities, contractors, and government agecies are requiring OSHA recordkeeping data as a component of the pre-qualification process than ever before.

However, none of these parties was permitted to publish any of your record keeping data. But, everything has changed.

OSHA's new rule makes an employer's record keeping data freely available for the general public on the OSHA website. Anybody with Internet access will be able to view a company's record keeping data (and calculate incident rates) the same way that OSHA violation history can be viewed currently. So, proper OSHA record keeping is more important than has ever; a simple error on the logs can make it seem like an employer has more dangerous work practices than is actually the case.

WHAT IF I MADE AN ERROR ON LAST YEAR'S 300 LOG?

First, you're not alone. Second, correcting current and prior year recordkeeping data is allowed (and advised). The 1904 standard is confusing and errors are common. Much of my business involves multiple year log review. Many of the errors I detect are instances of over-recording injury cases; it ends up being a good thing. The errant entries are removed, which results in the respective incident rate being corrected to what it truly is. Since incident rates are a very common pre-qualification factor, it's important to have correct record keeping data.

DOES OSHA REVIEW RECORD KEEPING LOGS DURING INSPECTIONS?

OSHA's compliance officers are instructed to review recordkeeping logs for the prior three calendar years. However, this doesn't apply to construction sites (or any other business establishment) that will complete in less than a year. Construction projects that will take longer than a year to complete are required to have OSHA record keeping logs available for review.

WHEN DO WE START ELECTRONICALLY SUBMITTING OUR DATA TO OSHA?

OSHA's final rule went into effect January 1, 2017. The first batch of data (year 2016 data) was originally scheduled to be due by July 1, 2017. However, OSHA failed to develop its electronic data submission mechanism in a timely manner, and so it's looking like December 1, 2017 will be the new deadline. Click here for more about that. Year 2017 data is scheduled to be due by July 1, 2018. Beginning in 2019 (2018 data), the deadline will be moved up to March 2.

AN EMPLOYEE HURT THEMSELF WHILE MESSING AROUND; DO WE HAVE TO RECORD IT?

One of the most frequent questions I receive is whether a client must record a case when they feel it's not work-related, or they had no control over what happened, or an employee wasn't following instructions, etc. Simply put, OSHA considers an employer to have 100% responsibility for what happens at work. With very few exceptions, if an employee injury event occurs, then the case will be recorded.

OSHA's words: "The nature of the activity in which the employee is engaged in at the time of the event or exposure, the degree of employer control over the employee's activity, the preventability of the incident, or the concept of fault do not affect the determination of work-relationship."

Not everyone is pleased with this treatment, but it's it's inline with OSHA's citation policy. Assume an employee violates a corporate requirement to wear chemistry goggles while using the chemical wash basin and incurs an eye injury resulting in days away from work. The employer can be cited for the employee not wearing PPE even though there was a corporate requirement to do so. And, the employer must record the injury. In an ideal world, employees would follow safety rules without question. And, why shouldn't they? They're being paid for it! While OSHA doesn't get into personnel affairs, they hold employers ultimately responsible for what happens at their place of business.

Please note that there are some exceptions to recording injuries that occur in the workplace. It is unusual when these exceptions apply, and they are not universally straightforward, but you might experience an injury case that meets the criteria for an exception from record keeping. Please contact me for further guidance if you are unsure of whether an injury event should be recorded, especially when it involves a concern due to work-relatedness. Or, consider the 0.4 CEU online workshop which addresses the nature of work-relatedness in a straightforward manner.

DO I NEED TO CALL OSHA IF AN INJURY HAPPENS?

Work-related fatalities must be reported within eight hours of learning of them. If you believe that a fatality should not be recorded because you feel it is not work-related (possible with a heart attack or other "natural causes" event), please contact me and I will provide guidance.

You must also notify OSHA, within 24 hours, of learning of the following non-fatal events: First, in-patient hospitalization, unless it is solely for diagnostic purposes (contact me for further guidance on whether it is considered "diagnostic"). Second, eye loss. And, lastly, amputation events including the loss of a limb (or any part of a limb), including fingertip amputations without bone loss. The exception to the notification requirements are when they are transit-related, such as with work-related travel via planes, trains, and automobiles. OSHA has no jurisdiction over transit scenarios for inspection purposes, so notifying OSHA is not required, though establishments must still enter these events on the record keeping forms.

Please note that injury events that are not work-related do not require recording and do not require OSHA notification. But, careful research is advised in this regard; OSHA's treatment of "work-related" is much broader than many professionals realize and some of the particular treatments (for example, parking lots) are downright confusing. If you're not sure if OSHA would treat an injury event as work-related, please contact me and I will provide guidance. The 0.4 CEU online workshop also addresses parking lots and other confusing scenarios in considerable detail.

For fatality or injury events that require OSHA notification, call 800-321-OSHA or Google the number of your local area office.

ARE OSHA RECORDKEEPING AND WORKERS COMPENSATION TREATMENT THE SAME?

Technically, OSHA recordkeeping criteria has nothing to do with workers compensation criteria for compensability and work-relatedness; OSHA does not get into the realm of liability or fault. However, many injury cases which are recordable are also compensable due to their severity. An example is a person who is injured to the point that they are no longer physically capable of doing the work they did pre-injury.

The following is an example of something that is not recordable for OSHA purposes, but could trigger workers compensation or third-party liability treatment: Assume an employer allows some employees to drive corporate-owned vehicles in their off-time and during commuting. If an employee is injured while off-duty or while commuting in the corporate-owned vehicle, OSHA does not consider it to be work related, and therefore record keeping entry is not triggered. However, the employer's workers compensation or third-party liability policy might hold the employer responsible for any injury occuring in a corporate-owned vehicle, regardless of whether the employee was doing work or not.

DO I NEED FORMAL TRAINING TO DO OSHA RECORD KEEPING FUNCTIONS?

No, this is not an OSHA requirement, though it's definitely helpful for those who have never performed these functions and/or want to keep their skills well-honed (drill makes skill!). Properly completing OSHA recordkeeping functions requires a complete understanding of the 1904 standard and the letters of interpretation that explain how the standard requirements are to be applied in unique scenarios that the standards don't always address.

The 0.4 CEU online workshop is a great start for folks new to OSHA record keeping and also a worthy refresher for seasoned veterans. Many personnel from OSHA itself have attended the classroom version of this workshop. This workshop is a condensed, refined, and improved version of the OSHA Training Institute course that I took myself many years ago.