Recent changes to the OSHA recordkeeping standard may catch many employers off guard this year, leaving them ill prepared to accurately record and report injuries and illnesses and potentially exposing them to citations and financial penalties.

The changes, which include an expansion of industries once exempt to now maintain OSHA injury and illness records as well as an expansion of the list of severe work-related injuries that all employers must report, took effect January 1, 2015 in states under Federal OSHA jurisdiction. Establishments located in states that operate their own safety and health programs (OSHA-approved States) should check with their individual state for implementation dates. NOTE: Employers with 10 or fewer employees are still considered partially exempt from injury and illness OSHA recordkeeping unless specifically requested by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) or if the organization previously suffered a fatality or hospitalization.

Businesses not found in compliance with OSHA requirements are looking at penalties of up to $70,000 per willful violation and other potential repercussions as well, including landing on OSHA's high hazard employer list for companies that have a higher rate of injury than their peer group, which increases the chance of an OSHA workplace inspection. Additionally, insurance loss control representatives will take note of higher than average OSHA injury rates, deeming the company less than desirable to insurance underwriters. It's also important to note that OSHA requirements include having a company executive sign the OSHA 300 summary report to ensure its accuracy, which means they can potentially be held personally liable for any errors.

Partially Exempt Industries

Under the new OSHA standard, the list of exempted employers will now be based on North American Industry Classification System Codes (NAICS) and therefore, many employers who were once exempt from recordkeeping requirements will now have to maintain injury and illness records, including retail stores, museums, amusement and recreation, automobile dealerships, equipment rental operations, liquor stores, bakeries and specialty food stores. For a complete list of industries that are now required to maintain records visit the OSHA website.

Serious Injury Reporting

The new rule also expanded the list of severe work-related injuries that employers must report to include all work-related inpatient hospitalizations, amputations and the loss of an eye within 24 hours to OSHA. The expanded rule retains its requirement to report work-related fatalities within eight hours to the local OSHA office as well.

Achieving Compliance

While OSHA hopes to use this expanded data set to identify establishments and industries where workers are at risk in order to prevent further illness and injury, implementing effective recordkeeping practices isn't something that can be done overnight and oftentimes requires resources small to mid-size employers don't have.

  • Use this Checklist to avoid common recordkeeping mistakes

One solution is to employ a scalable Risk Management Information System or RMIS software, which maintains electronic records, tracks claims and provides analytic tools to help companies of all sizes manage potential risk through data collection (see HUB Connects article on RMIS).

Because both under and over reporting can compromise an employer's OSHA standing, working with a HUB Risk Services specialist to establish a robust internal system of recordkeeping can help meet the new requirements as well. HUB can help to both analyze existing processes and train staff members to meet the new rules.

Even for employers who have previously been subject to OSHA requirements, examining existing recording and reporting practices can be critical to eliminating over and under reporting. Here are two recent examples:

One business was only reporting incidents if they exceeded the workers' compensation three-day waiting period, resulting in multiple errors. Working together with a HUB risk consultant, they were able to correct their errors and institute best practices for OSHA reporting going forward.

A private ambulance company, after working with a HUB risk consultant to review their records, discovered that they had been over reporting injuries because of their misunderstanding of recordable injuries and lost time cases. Correcting their erroneous reporting process reduced the company's incident rate by over 30%, making the company less likely to be inspected by OSHA and a more attractive risk to insurance carriers when shopping for a new policy.

To avoid reporting errors and potential fiscal consequences, contact a HUB Risk Services consultant to find out about how you can institute proper recordkeeping and reporting to comply with OSHA's newest regulations. Check out OSHA's website for a 15-minute tutorial on current recordkeeping requirements: