Kevin Ian Schmidt

Employer Requirements to Recording Injuries and Illnesses

The OSH Act of 1970 requires the Secretary of Labor to produce regulations that require employers in certain industries to keep records of occupational deaths, injuries, and illnesses. The records are used for several purposes.

Injury and illness statistics are used by OSHA. OSHA collects data through the OSHA Data Initiative (ODI) to help direct its programs and measure its own performance. Inspectors also use the data during inspections to help direct their efforts to the hazards that are hurting workers.

The records are also used by employers and employees to implement safety and health programs at individual workplaces. Analysis of the data is a widely recognized method for discovering workplace safety and health problems and for tracking progress in solving those problems.

The records provide the base data for the BLS Annual Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses, the Nation’s primary source of occupational injury and illness data.


What is the effect of workers’ compensation reports on the OSHA records?

The purpose section of the rule includes a note to make it clear that recording an injury or illness neither affects a person’s entitlement to workers’ compensation nor proves a violation of an OSHA rule. The rules for compensability under workers’ compensation differ from state to state and do not have any effect on whether or not a case needs to be recorded on the OSHA 300 Log. Many cases will be OSHA recordable and compensable under workers’ compensation. However, some cases will be compensable but not OSHA recordable, and some cases will be OSHA recordable but not compensable under workers’ compensation.


The Purpose of Recordkeeping

The recordkeeping and reporting rule requires employers to record and report work-related fatalities, injuries and illnesses. It’s important to know that recording or reporting a work-related injury, illness, or fatality:

  • does not assign fault to anybody
  • does not prove the violation of an OSHA rule
  • does not establish the employee’s eligibility for workers’ compensation or other benefits

Scope of the Rule

All employers covered by the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) are covered by these Part 1904 regulations. However, most employers do not have to keep OSHA injury and illness records unless OSHA or the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) informs them in writing that they must keep records. For example, employers with 10 or fewer employees and business establishments in certain industry classifications are partially exempt from keeping OSHA injury and illness records.

Check Out: Who and Where Does OSHA Regulate

Criteria for Recording Injuries and Illnesses

Each employer is required to keep records of fatalities, injuries, and illnesses that:

  • are work-related
  • are new cases
  • meet one or more of the general recording criteria of Section 1904.7 or the application to specific cases of Section 1904.8 through Section 1904.11

Recording Rule Exemptions

Employers in certain industries are not required to keep OSHA injury and illness records (visit this OSHA webpage for a list of partially exempted industries), unless they are asked in writing to do so by OSHA, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), or a state agency operating under the authority of OSHA or the BLS. All employers, including those partially exempted by reason of company size or industry classification, must report to OSHA any workplace incident that results in a fatality, in-patient hospitalization, amputation, or loss of an eye.

If your company had ten (10) or fewer employees at all times during the last calendar year, you do not need to keep OSHA injury and illness records unless your State Plan or Federal OSHA Director or the BLS informs you in writing that you must keep records under Section 1904.41 or Section 1904.42. However, as required by Section 1904.39, all employers covered by the OSH Act must report to OSHA any workplace incident that results in one or more fatalities or the hospitalization of three or more employees.

  • If your company had more than ten (10) employees at any time during the last calendar year, you must keep OSHA injury and illness records unless your establishment is classified as a partially exempt industry under Section 1904.2.
  • The partial exemption for size is based on the number of employees in the entire company.
  • To determine if you are exempt because of size, you need to determine your company’s peak employment during the last calendar year. If you had no more than 10 employees at any time in the last calendar year, your company qualifies for the partial exemption for size.


When is an injury or illness work-related

You must consider an injury or illness to be work-related if an event or exposure in the work environment either caused or contributed to:

  • the resulting condition, or
  • significantly aggravated a pre-existing injury or illness.

You should presume work-relatedness for injuries and illnesses resulting from events or exposures occurring in the work environment, unless an exception in 29 CFR 1904.5(b)(2) specifically applies. We’ll discuss these exceptions in the next section.

When is a workers’ compensation case work-related?

A case is presumed work-related if, and only if, an event or exposure in the work environment:

  • is a discernible cause of the injury or illness; or
  • a significant aggravation to a pre-existing condition.

The work event or exposure need only be one of the discernible causes; it need not be the sole or predominant cause.

“Work Environment”

The work environment is the establishment and other locations where one or more employees work or are present as a condition of their employment.

The work environment includes not only physical locations, but also the equipment or materials used by the employee during the course of their work.

Do you have employees in nontraditional work environments. check out this post to learn more

“Significantly Aggravated”

A pre-existing injury or illness is significantly aggravated when an event or exposure in the work environment results in any of the circumstances below.

  1. Death, provided that the pre-existing injury or illness would likely not have resulted in death but for the occupational event or exposure.
  2. Loss of consciousness, provided that the pre-existing injury or illness would likely not have resulted in loss of consciousness but for the occupational event or exposure.
  3. One or more days away from work, of restricted work, or days of job transfer that otherwise would not have occurred but for the occupational event or exposure.
  4. Medical treatment in a case where no medical treatment was needed for the injury or illness before the workplace event or exposure, or a change in medical treatment was necessitated by the workplace event or exposure.

To ensure that non-work-related cases are not entered on the Log, the rule requires employers to consider as non-work-related any injury or illness that “involves signs or symptoms that surface at work but result solely from a non-work-related event or exposure that occurs outside the work environment.” (See Table here.)

Pre-existing conditions also include any injury or illness that the employee experienced while working for another employer.

Non Work-Related Injuries

An injury or illness occurring in the work environment that falls under one of the following exceptions is not work-related and therefore is not recordable. Do not record injuries and illnesses if the circumstances below occurred.


View & download the OSHA Recordability First Aid Answer Sheet below



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