An estimated 1.4 million employers should find recording injury and illness data for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Washington, D.C., a lot simpler, based on a new recordkeeping rule that took effect Jan. 1, 2002.
According to OSHA administrator John Henshaw, the rule also will provide:
- Forms that are easier to understand,
- Greater employee privacy in sensitive cases,
- Clearer regulatory requirements, and
- More accurate data.
According to OSHA, three forms — Form 300, Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses; Form 300A, Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses; and Form 301, Injury and Illness Incident Report — were mailed last fall to employers with 11 employees or more.
“The new OSHA forms were smaller,” Henshaw says. “We've also clarified and simplified the instructions for filling out the forms.”
Previously, employers were required to post a 2001 summary of injuries and illnesses each year during February. Beginning in 2003, the annual summary is to be posted for three months — February, March and April.
To help employers understand the new forms, OSHA's website offers training materials and fact sheets. Employers also can access the web version of a satellite training broadcast online, Henshaw says.
The new rule covers all workplace injuries and illnesses except for hearing loss and musculoskeletal disorders. OSHA is delaying a decision on these issues until January 2003.
Meantime, employers who have or will violate recordkeeping rules between last fall when the new forms were mailed and April 2001 will not be penalized, provided they make the necessary corrections to bring their records into compliance.
Last March, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), Washington, D.C., filed a lawsuit against the administration as it sought clarifications on several rule provisions. In a settlement reached in November, OSHA compliance officers agreed to focus initially on compliance assistance rather than enforcement. Consequently, no citations were issued for violations during the first 120 days after the rule took effect, as long as employers agreed to make corrections.
The settlement, Henshaw says, “demonstrates that we [and the NAM] can work together for the common goal of worker safety and health.”
Despite these clarifications and OSHA's training efforts, some employers still may find the rule challenging because it changes some of the criteria used to determine which injuries and illnesses should be recorded and how they will be entered. This means it could be difficult for employers to compare injury and illness data generated from the new forms with older data.
Trying to compare what is happening this year with previous years is important, says Jan Boynton, human resources director with Kalamazoo, Mich.-based Schupan Industrial Recycling Services, a metal recycler. “[With the new rule,] it's difficult because you no longer are comparing apples to apples.”
For instance, the new rule measures lost workdays differently. In the past, days were counted as lost only if the ill employee was normally scheduled to work that day. The new rule eliminates “lost workdays” and instead counts calendar days away from work.
But other companies may find it easier to report illnesses. The new rule “clarifies the recording of lost or sick days,” says Shirley Elsen, workers compensation coordinator for Cincinnati-based Rumpke Consolidated Cos. “These improvements make the overall process more efficient and more successful.”
Additionally, computer systems, such as Schupan's payroll processing software, may accommodate upgrades that comply with OSHA's new reporting system.
For more information, visit www.osha.gov.