How to Make the Most of OSHA Rules on Reporting Workplace Injuries

Under its record-keeping rules, OSHA requires that employers track and report injuries and illnesses in the workplace. In February 2003 employers will for the first time be posting summary reports (OSHA Form 300-As) that are based on new record-keeping rules put in place last year. Look for these reports on the bulletin board in your workplace starting in February.

Workplace activists, stewards and health and safety committees can use these injury and illness reports to track safety problems in the workplace. The information can also be used to defend grievances or prepare proposals for bargaining. The summaries can be particularly helpful in larger workplaces, where it can be difficult to get a good picture of health and safety problems and trends.

If your workplace has any kind of safety incentive (bonus or bingo programs) policy or discipline policy (such as points for accidents) it could be well worth your time to review the 300-A summaries. These employer policies tend to discourage reporting of illnesses and injuries. The 300-A can be used as evidence to show that the policies are having this illegal dampening effect.

Is Your Employer Covered by the Rules?

Any employer with ten or more employees must keep and post the reports. There are exemptions for certain “low hazard” industries, but very few Teamster employers would qualify.

What Injuries/Illnesses Does Your Employer Have to Record?

Employers have to record all new cases of work-related injuries and illnesses if they involve:

  • Restricted work or transfer to another job.
  • Days away from work.
  • Death.
  • Medical treatment beyond first aid.
  • Loss of consciousness.
  • A significant injury or illness that has been diagnosed by a physician or other licensed health care professional.

Changes under the new rule regarding what has to be recorded:

The rule sets out situations under which injuries do not have to be recorded, such as someone getting injured in a vehicle accident in a company parking lot while commuting to or from work.

The new rule drops a requirement that all illnesses be recorded, regardless of whether they result in lost time or job transfer. While this is negative, the new rule does state that any “significant” illness must be recorded if a licensed medical provider has diagnosed it. This would include work-related cancer, bone fractures and lung diseases such as silicosis.

The rule does specify certain cases, such as ergonomic problems, that must be indicated separately. This will help track these serious problems. (However there is a delay on this requirement until 2004).

How Have the Forms Changed?

  • The 300 Log — kept by the employer throughout the year and used to come up with the 300-A summaries — asks where injuries or illnesses occurred in the workplace (rather than asking for the department in which the injured employee usually works).
  • The 300 Log now requires that employees check one of seven boxes to categorize an injury/illness (rather than dividing the form between injuries and illnesses as was done under the old 200 Logs). The categories are:
    1. injury
    2. musculoskeletal disorder (torn rotator cuff, carpal tunnel syndrome, low back pain, etc.).
    3. skin disorder
    4. respiratory condition
    5. poisoning
    6. hearing loss
    7. all other illnesses.

    Hide and Seek

    Many employers are prone to under-reporting injuries and illnesses. It is important to compare what your employer enters on the 300-A reports with information gathered from other sources, such as a rank and file workplace survey.

    It is a violation of OSHA regulations to fail to report injuries and illnesses accurately. If your employer is not reporting correctly you can file a complaint with OSHA.

    Access to Information

    In addition to posting the 300-A Summary in February, employers must provide copies of other materials as set out below. Under the new rules time limits for providing information have been set. The new rules also provide privacy for cases involving HIV, sexual assault and tuberculosis.

    • Employers must provide copies of OSHA 300 Logs by the end of the next business day. Those who have a right to request copies of logs include workers and former workers, their personal representatives and union representatives.
    • Employers must provide copies of Form 301 Incident Reports — filled out each time there is an incident — by the end of the next business day to workers, former workers or personal representatives.
    • Employers must provide copies of Form 301 Incident Reports to union representatives within seven calendar days. They may remove personal information about the employee(s) involved.
    • Copies of all reports indicated above must be provided free of charge the first time requested.

    Employers must retain injury and illness reporting records for a period of five years.

    How to Make the Most of Record-keeping Rules and Rights

    The 300 Logs are helpful, but not a foolproof tool. Workers and local unions who use other workplace health and safety strategies will be in the best position to make use of them. Here are some suggestions.

    • Get your local to track health and safety grievances throughout the year. Refer back to them when reviewing the 300-A Summary or the Logs. And/or use 300 Log statistics (if accurate) to back up grievances when they arise.
    • Challenge employer tricks that discourage the reporting of injuries and illnesses. Bonus programs, bingo or lotteries that reward workers for not reporting injuries should be fought just as hard as accident “point” systems and other disciplinary polices that discourage workers from reporting injuries. Fight these through bargaining (the union has a right to bargain over these policies, even when the contract is not up) and through organizing.
    • Organize worker health and safety surveys. A confidential survey that is organized to get maximum participation is an excellent way to get more detailed information on workplace illness and injuries. Compare your results with the employer’s 300 Log reports.
    • Compare the 300-A Summary with the 300 Logs and the Incident Reports. Look for inconsistencies or missing information.
    • During OSHA workplace inspections, point out problems with the 300 Logs to OSHA inspectors.
    Rights & Resources: