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The 10 assumptions NOT to make when doing your OSHA 300s

December is here and it’s time for the logs. No, not the yule logs—the OSHA 300 logs! It’s time to get the year’s injury and illness records in order and start getting the OSHA 300A ready for the Feb. 1 filing deadline. As you set about your task, here are 10 OSHA 300 assumptions you want to avoid at all costs.

Bad assumption #1: We should record everything just to be safe

The truth: Although underreporting can lead to citations, over-reporting can also get you into trouble because it artificially inflates your illness and injury rates. In addition to higher workers’ comp premiums, that may make your office a target for OSHA enforcement programs aimed at facilities with above-industry average rates.

What to do: Erring on the side of caution is all well and good. But make sure you record only illnesses and injuries that meet the OSHA criteria, i.e., that:

  • Are work-related; and
  • Are new cases you haven’t reported before; and
  • Result in at least one of the following:
    • Death;
    • Days away from work;
    • Restricted work or transfer to another job;
    • Medical treatment beyond first aid;
    • Loss of consciousness; or
    • Significant injury or illness diagnosed by a physician or licensed healthcare professional.

Bad assumption #2. We don’t have to record injuries that aren’t our fault

The truth: OSHA 300 recordability is no-fault. Translation: Illnesses/injuries may be recordable even if they’re sustained in bizarre accidents, result from deliberate misconduct on the part of an employee, or are otherwise “not your fault.”

What to do: Record all illnesses and injuries that meet OSHA criteria, i.e., that:

  • Are work-related; and
  • Are new cases not reported before; and
  • Result in at least one of the following:
    • Death;
    • Days away from work;
    • Restricted work or transfer to another job;
    • Medical treatment beyond first aid;
    • Loss of consciousness; or
    • Significant injury or illness diagnosed by a physician or licensed healthcare professional.

Bad assumption #3: We don’t have to record injuries not covered by workers’ comp

The truth: OSHA and workers’ comp follow different rules for recording injuries and illnesses.

What to do: It’s okay to use the workers’ comp reporting form instead of the OSHA form. Just be sure that the criteria for recordability listed on the form come from OSHA and not your state’s workers’ comp board.

Bad assumption #4: We don’t have to record injuries to temps

The truth: Temps are “covered employees” for whom illness/injury records must be kept under Sec. 1904.31 of the OSHA Recordkeeping standard.

What to do: The real issue is not if a temp’s injury/illness is recordable but who is responsible for recording it—the host office or temp agency that placed the temp at the office. Rule: You must do the reporting if you supervise the temp’s work on a day-to-day basis, i.e., exercise control over the details, means, methods and processes by which work is carried out.

Bad assumption #5: We don’t have to record aggravation of injury that a doctor says is non-work-related

The truth: Aggravation at work of a non-work injury/illness is recordable if it’s “significant.” But problems can arise because of the disconnect between doctors and OSHA on what “work-related” means. To a doctor, an injury primarily caused by something outside work may not be “work-related” just because it gets tweaked at work. But for OSHA, such tweaking would be deemed “significant” enough to make it work-related to the extent it occurs as a result of a discrete work event.

What to do: When asking doctors for an opinion, make sure they consider aggravation on the basis of the OSHA definition of work-relatedness.

Bad assumption #6: Treatment is “first aid” because it’s advertised as such

The truth: Under the OSHA Standard, injuries/illnesses are recordable if the victim gets medical treatment “beyond first aid.” Sec. 1904.7(b)(5) lists the treatments defined as “first aid”:

First Aid Treatments

  • Using a non-prescription medication at nonprescription strength (for medications available in both prescription and non-prescription form, a recommendation by a physician or other licensed health care professional to use a non-prescription medication at prescription strength is considered medical treatment for recordkeeping purposes);
  • Administering tetanus immunizations (other immunizations, such as Hepatitis B vaccine or rabies vaccine, are considered medical treatment);
  • Cleaning, flushing or soaking wounds on the surface of the skin;
  • Using wound coverings such as bandages, Band-Aids™, gauze pads, etc.; or using butterfly bandages or Steri-Strips™ (other wound closing devices such as sutures, staples, etc., are considered medical treatment);
  • Using hot or cold therapy;
  • Using any non-rigid means of support, such as elastic bandages, wraps, non-rigid back belts, etc. (devices with rigid stays or other systems designed to immobilize parts of the body are considered medical treatment for recordkeeping purposes);
  • Using temporary immobilization devices while transporting an accident victim (e.g., splints, slings, neck collars, back boards, etc.);
  • Drilling of a fingernail or toenail to relieve pressure, or draining fluid from a blister;
  • Using eye patches;
  • Removing foreign bodies from the eye using only irrigation or a cotton swab;
  • Removing splinters or foreign material from areas other than the eye by irrigation, tweezers, cotton swabs or other simple means;
  • Using finger guards;
  • Using massages (physical therapy or chiropractic treatment are considered medical treatment for recordkeeping purposes); or
  • Drinking fluids for relief of heat stress.

What to do: Note that treatments advertised as “first aid” are not on the list and that the above treatments aren’t just examples of “first aid”—they’re the entire list.

Bad assumption #7: Injuries aren’t recordable as a work restriction if employee can still do useful work

The truth: Injuries/illnesses result in a “work restriction” where a licensed health care professional recommends that employee not perform one or more of the “routine functions” of their job, a work activity regularly performed at least once a week.

What to do: Recognize that work restrictions aren’t defined by the usefulness of the injured employee’s post-injury work but how it compares to his/her pre-injury job functions. So, for example, assigning office work to a field worker who can no longer drive as he did every day before he got hurt won’t get you out of recording the injury as a work restriction.

Bad assumption #8: Light duty doesn’t count as a work restriction

The truth: According to OSHA, light duty not only can be but is presumed to be a work restriction that must be recorded.

What to do: If a doctor recommends light duty, treat the case as a work restriction unless you can get the doctor to expressly state that the employee can perform all his/her routine job functions. Or, if you’re not clear exactly what the doctor is recommending, follow up and ask about what the restriction means. The best approach: Ask the doctor directly which, if any, of the employee’s routine tasks he/she shouldn’t perform. Treat the injury as a recordable restricted work case if:

  • If at least one of the employee’s routine job functions is on the list; or
  • You can’t get specific information from the doctor on the tasks the routine tasks the employee can’t perform.

Bad assumption #9: The day the employee gets hurt counts as a restricted work/lost day

The truth: Lost/restricted work days are counted from the day after the employee gets hurt.

What to do: When an employee suffers a work-related injury leading to lost or restricted work, start the lost/restricted days count on the day following the injury. Exception: If an employee is placed on restrictions or lost days for the first time several days after the injury occurs, start the count immediately starting with the day the orders were written.

Bad assumption #10: Office shutdown days don’t count as lost/restricted work days

The truth: They sure do. The OSHA rules for counting restricted/lost work days make no exception for days a company is shut down.

What to do: Be sure to count shutdown days toward the employee’s lost/restricted work day total.

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