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The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued a revised rule to improve the system employers use to track and record workplace injuries and illnesses. OSHA’s record-keeping requirements, in place since 1971, were designed to help employers recognize workplace hazards and correct hazardous conditions by keeping track of work-related injuries and illnesses and their causes. The revised rule is intended to produce better information about occupational injuries and illnesses while simplifying the overall record-keeping system for employers. The rule will also better protect employees’ privacy.
"Record keeping is a critical part of safety and health efforts in every workplace," said Alexis Herman, then secretary of labor, when announcing the change. "The revision we are announcing today will not lessen an employer’s record-keeping responsibilities, but it will make it easier to successfully meet the requirements."
The final rule becomes effective on Jan. 1, 2002, and will affect approximately 1.3 million establishments. OSHA is publishing the rule now to give employers ample time to learn the new requirements and to revise computer systems they may be using for record keeping. (During this transition period, employers must adhere to requirements of the original rule.)
Like the former rule, employers with 10 or fewer employees are exempt from most requirements of the new rule, as are a number of industries classified as low-hazard retail, service, finance, insurance, and real estate sectors. The new rule updates the list of exempted industries to reflect recent industry data. (All employers covered by the Occupational Safety and Health Act must continue to report any workplace incident resulting in a fatality or the hospitalization of three or more employees.)
The revised rule includes a provision for recording needlestick and sharps injuries that is consistent with recently passed legislation requiring OSHA to revise its bloodborne pathogens standard to address such injuries. This provision is expected to result in a significant increase in recordable cases annually.
The record-keeping rule also conforms with OSHA’s ergonomics standard published last November. It simplifies the manner in which employers record musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), replacing a cumbersome system in which MSDs were recorded using criteria different from those for other injuries or illnesses. The revised forms have a separate column for recording MSDs, which will improve the compilation of national data on these disorders.
One of the least understood concepts of record keeping has been restricted work; the new rule clarifies the definition of restricted work or light duty and makes it easier to record those cases. Work-related injuries also are better defined to ensure the recording only of appropriate cases while excluding cases clearly unrelated to work.
The revised rule also promotes improved employee awareness and involvement in the record-keeping process, providing workers and their representatives access to the information on record-keeping forms and increasing awareness of potential hazards in the workplace. Privacy concerns of employees also have been addressed; the former rule had no privacy protections covering the log used to record work-related injuries and illnesses.
Written in plain language using a question-and-answer format, for the first time, the regulation uses checklists and flowcharts to provide easier interpretations of record-keeping requirements. Finally, employers are given more flexibility in using computers and telecommunications technology to meet their record-keeping requirements.