How to Avoid Safety Recordkeeping Errors & Citations

How to Avoid Safety Recordkeeping Errors & Citations

Failure to maintain current and error-free workplace records can end up costing you loads of money in OSHA violations. Employers especially vulnerable to recordkeeping violations are those with multiple establishments or job sites because these situations present special compliance challenges and more exposure to violations.

In recent years, OSHA has raised the average cost of penalties, and more frequently hands out willful and repeat citations. OSHA is also giving out more incident-by-incident (egregious) citations, rather than grouping incidents and giving one citation for all of them.

When OSHA issues incident-by-incident penalties it can get very expensive very fast. Incident-by-incident citations were first employed in recordkeeping cases, and it’s very easy to make a mistake on your records log and end up having to pay egregious violation fines for it.

Recordkeeping Problem Areas

There are several recordkeeping issues that seem to be trouble spots for many employers. Common issues are:

Performing Recordkeeping Audits

The first step when auditing your records is to determine everyone in your organization who maintains injury and illness records. You should also determine each individual’s business reasons for maintaining records. To the extent possible, try to consolidate injury and illness recordkeeping into one system.

Perform self-audits of your records and logs every five years, making corrections along the way when you find errors. Be sure to check your state OSHA rules to maintain state compliance. Sometimes states have the exact same rules as federal OSHA rules, but other times they’ve added supplementary regulations.

Recordkeeping Exemptions

There are some exceptions to whether or not you need to adhere to certain OSHA regulations. Here’s some information on several different exemptions and how they affect recordkeeping:


1904.1 Size Exemption

If your company had 10 or fewer employees at all times during the last calendar year, you do not need to keep the injury and illness records unless requested by OSHA or the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Size exemption is based on the number of employees in the entire company, not just one location, and includes temporary employees.

1904.1 Partial Exemption

Basically, this exemption means employers that are partially exempt from the recordkeeping requirements because of their size or industry must continue to comply with:

1904.39: Reporting fatalities and multiple hospitalization incidents
1904.41: Annual OSHA injury and illness survey (if specifically requested to do so by OSHA)
1904.42: BLS Annual Survey (if specifically requested to do so by BLS)

SUBPART C- Forms & Recording Criteria

1904.4 Recording Criteria

In most cases, in order to stay compliant with recording criteria, the employer who was actually supervising the injured employee is required to record the incident. Individual contractors do not have to be recorded. However, a common mistake that inspectors find when examining records is that many individual independent contractors are misclassified, and should be classified as employees.

Covered employers must record each injury, illness or fatality that is work-related, a new case and meets one or more of the criteria contained in sections 1904.7 through 1904.11.

SUBPART D – Other requirements

1904.30 Multiple Establishments

Employers must keep a separate OSHA Form 300 for each establishment that is expected to be in operation for more than a year. They may keep one OSHA Form 300 for all short-term establishments, though. Each employee must be linked to only one establishment, even if they’ve been working in more than one facility. Employers will need to determine which location serves as the each employee’s primary facility.

1904.31 Covered Employees

Covered employees include employees on payroll, employees who are not on payroll but are supervised on a day-to-day basis. It excludes self-employed individuals and partners.

1904.32 Annual Summary

When performing an annual summary, employers should review OSHA Form 300 for completeness and accuracy, and correct any deficiencies they may discover. They will also need to complete OSHA Form 300A. Upon completion, the summary needs to be certified by a company executive, meaning an owner of the company, an officer of the corporation, or the highest-ranking company official working at the establishment.

Employers must post the OSHA 300A summary for a three-month period, from February 1 to April 30. It is not necessary to post OSHA Form 300.

1904.34 Retention and Updating

Employers are required to retain forms for five years.

1904.35 Employee Involvement

There needs to be a way for employees to report work-related injuries and illnesses promptly. Employees must train each employee on how to report an injury or illness. It’s beneficial to include reporting procedures in your company policy book.

Limited access to injury and illness records need to be made available to employees, former employees, and their personal and authorized representatives. If any of the prior individuals mentioned request records, employers must:

SUBPART E- Reporting Information to the Government

1904.39 Fatality and Catastrophe Reporting

Within eight hours of any work-related fatality or incident involving three or more in-patient hospitalizations, employers must orally report to incident to an OSHA area office or State Plan office. However, employers do not need to report highway or public street motor vehicle accidents that take place outside of a construction zone. They also do not need to report commercial airplane, train, subway or bus accidents.

1904.40 Access for Government Representatives

When an authorized government representative asks for records under Part 1904, employers must provide copies to them within four business hours. It’s a good idea for employers to update their records log as they go so they are always current and ready at a government representative’s request.

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