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Employees have the right to a safe workplace, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSH Act).1 The OSH Act was signed into law December 29, 1970 by President Richard M. Nixon in response to dangerous working conditions across the nation. This law led to the establishment of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), and the independent Occupational Health and Safety Review Commission.
OSHA2 was officially established on April 28, 1971. The purpose of this entity is to ensure that employers provide safe and healthful working conditions. It sets and enforces standards and also provides training, outreach, education, and assistance to employers.
The first standard developed by OSHA was issued on June 7, 1972. The standard set safety guidelines to protect workers from exposure to asbestos fibers, a known carcinogen. Over-exposure can result in lung cancer, asbestosis, and mesothelioma. OSHA reports that significant asbestos exposure is now rare in American workplaces, however, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that “although the use of asbestos and asbestos products has dramatically decreased in recent years, they are still found in many residential and commercial settings and continue to pose a health risk to workers and others.”3
In 1972, OSHA approved South Carolina and Oregon to adopt and enforce standards in their states. These were the first state plans to receive this approval; now there are 28 states4 and territories that have approved OSHA state plans. In some cases, the state may be approved only to regulate the state government offices and not the private sector, however, most state plans do regulate the private sector.
Many people complain about government regulation. However, how many work-related fatalities would occur in the U.S. if employers were not required to provide a safe and healthful workplace? OSHA responds to hazards that affect a large number of workers by issuing standards.
OSHA provides a free consultation service to employers, known as the On-Site Consultation Program (go to insidedentaltech.com/idt850 for more information).Its purpose is to help small, high-hazard employers to develop and implement a health and safety program appropriate for their workplace. These services differ from an OSHA enforcement visit as they do not result in penalties or citations. The services are usually provided by consultants from state agencies or universities. OSHA conducted approximately 27,000 visits5 to small business worksites in fiscal year 2014 and covered more than 1.25 million workers across the nation.
Even with all this guidance from OSHA, workers still experience work-related injuries and illnesses; in FY 2014 there were 4,6796 work-related fatalities. Employers must assess the hazards and provide their employees with working conditions that are free of known dangers. The gathering of information and statistics from employers is critical to the evaluation process that OSHA must utilize to monitor the specific hazards that are causing the most worker fatalities and other injuries and illnesses. This article will explore how statistics are being gathered for this purpose.
Bureau of Labor Statistics
The gathering of statistical information on industrial accidents began in 1912 with the study of accidents in the iron and steel industry. Employers and OSHA rely on the Bureau of Labor Statistics7 (BLS) to gather and publish this information. BLS is a part of the U.S. Department of Labor. In 1972, BLS designed the annual Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses (SOII) to estimate the number and frequency of work-related injuries and illnesses by detailed industry. This survey had its shortcomings: It did not ask how the incident occurred, which occupations were involved, nor demographics and circumstances surrounding worker deaths.
Starting in 1987, the BLS survey was supplemented by compiling complete accounts of occupational fatalities from administrative records such as death certificates and workers’ compensation reports. In 1992, BLS introduced the redesigned statistical system that is now available annually by the following titles:
- Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI), which includes detailed cases, circumstances, and worker characteristics of work-related fatalities
- Workplace Injuries and Illnesses, which includes industry-level estimates of nonfatal work-related injuries and illnesses from the SOII
- Nonfatal Occupational Injuries and Illnesses Requiring Days Away From Work, which includes detailed case circumstances and worker characteristics for cases involving days away from work from the SOII
The information available through BLS is extensive. Therefore, employers should use it as another resource to become better informed on the causes of occupational injuries. The table that provides the total fatalities by year, Table 5,8 shows by state total the fatalities for the past 2 fiscal years and then the event or exposure that caused the fatality.
BLS also receives information from employers regarding work-related injuries, illnesses, and fatalities. Information regarding work-related injuries and illnesses are only submitted to BLS upon request. Employers who receive a form and notice from BLS to submit the recorded information to BLS at the end of a calendar year must respond to the request.
OSHA’s Recordkeeping Rules
Part 19049 is OSHA’s recordkeeping rule. It requires covered employers to record and report all work-related fatalities and certain work-related injuries and illnesses. OSHA uses this information to evaluate the safety of a workplace, better understand industry hazards, and implement worker protections to reduce and eliminate hazards.
In January 2002, dental laboratories were provided a partial exemption by OSHA for recordkeeping; they only had to report work-related fatalities and/or the hospitalization of 3 or more workers for a work-related injury to OSHA within 8 hours of knowledge of the incident. The partial exemption did not apply to dental laboratories in 4 states that operate state OSHA plans: Minnesota, Washington, Hawaii, and Nevada. Dental laboratories in those states should have continued over the past 13 years to document work-related fatalities, injuries, and illnesses on the appropriate OSHA logs.
As of January 1, 2015, that has changed. Dental laboratories must now comply with OSHA’s recording rules. The recordkeeping regulation has been revised, so following are the requirements.
Partial Exemptions for Recording of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses
Partial exemption for size of company §1904.1 explains the partial exemption for employers with 10 or fewer employees. If an employer had 10 or fewer employees at all times during the last calendar year, then the employer does not need to keep the OSHA injury and illness records unless the employer receives the request from BLS that was described above. If the employer had more than 10 employees at any time during the last calendar year, then the employer must keep the OSHA injury and illness records. A company that has more than 1 location must consider the total number of employees, so if a company has 4 employees in one location and 8 in another, then both locations must keep the OSHA injury and illness records.
Partial Exemption for Industry Classification
OSHA also grants partial exemptions to certain industries. The US government assigns a 4-digit numerical Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) code to business establishments to identify the primary business of the establishment. Various agencies of the federal government, state agencies, and private organizations use this classification to facilitate the collection, presentation, and analysis of data and also to promote uniformity and comparability in the presentation of statistical data. Dental laboratories had been classified under the SIC code 8072, which was on the list of partially exempt industries.
As of this year, OSHA uses the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) instead of the SIC codes. Dental laboratories are NAICS code 339116, which is not on the list of partially exempt industries. The NAICS allows for a greater breakdown of types of industries because it contains 6 numbers instead of 4.
Recording Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses
An injury or illness is considered work-related if the event or exposure occurred in the work environment and either caused or contributed to the resulting condition or significantly aggravated a pre-existing condition. Examples of recordable cases include:
- Loss of consciousness
- Days away from work
- Restricted work activity or job transfer
- Medical treatment (beyond First Aid)
- Significant work-related injuries or illnesses that are diagnosed by a physician or other licensed health care professional, i.e. cancer, chronic irreversible disease, a fractured or cracked bone, or a punctured eardrum.
- Additional criteria such as needlestick injury from contaminated sharp object, medical removal from a job, TB infection, and hearing impairment.
- Using a nonprescription medication at nonprescription strength at the advice of a physician or other licensed health care professional
- Cleaning, flushing, or soaking wounds on the surface of the skin
- Using wound coverings such as bandages, Band-Aids™, gauze pads, etc.; or using butterfly bandages or Steri-Strips™ (other wound closing devices such as sutures, staples, etc. are considered medical treatment)
- Drilling of a fingernail or toenail to relieve pressure, or draining fluid from a blister
- Using eye patches
- Removing foreign bodies from the eye using only irrigation or a cotton swab
- Removing splinters or foreign material from areas other than the eye by irrigation, tweezers, cotton swabs, or other simple means
- Using finger guards
Training on Recordkeeping
If an employer does not meet either of the partial exemptions described in the section above, then the employer must secure the appropriate forms required by OSHA for recordkeeping and gain the knowledge to correctly complete the forms. Because most dental laboratories have been partially exempt from recordkeeping for many years, their knowledge of what to record might need refreshing. Here are some tools that OSHA provides to help with this knowledge:
- A 15-minute online tutorial (training module)11 on completing the recordkeeping forms
- An interactive e-tool (Recordkeeping Advisor)12 that uses employer responses to questions to help them determine whether (and how) they need to record/report specific injuries and illnesses
OSHA Forms Used for Recording Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses
OSHA provides 3 basic forms13 for recording work-related fatalities, injuries, and illnesses. Employers need to educate themselves on what is recordable and what is not recordable, as not all work-related injuries are recordable. Only record on the forms the injuries that OSHA defines as recordable. These forms are not sent to OSHA but can be requested by OSHA during an inspection.
Form 300 is titled Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses. This form is used to record the injuries and illnesses that meet the criteria according to OSHA. The name of the employee, date of injury, type of injury, etc. are required on this form. This form must be retained for 5 years and should be kept in a confidential location because it contains employee medical information.
Form 300A is titled Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses. This form is completed for the prior calendar year. It is a summary of the number of injuries but does not contain names of employees nor any specific medical information. This form must be displayed in a conspicuous place for employee viewing from February 1 of each year to April 30 of the same year. It then is retained for 5 years.
Form 301 is titled Injury and Illness Incident Report. This is the form used to record each recordable injury or illness. If an employer uses another form that is required by another agency, such as your worker’s compensation company, then that company’s form may be used as long as it contains all of the information that OSHA requires on Form 301. This form is retained for a minimum of 5 years.
Reporting Work-Related Fatalities, Injuries, and Illnesses to OSHA
This is another part of the recordkeeping rule that has expanded the list of severe work-related injuries that all covered employers must report to OSHA. Neither the size of the company by worker count nor the NAICS partial exemption described above in the Reporting section apply to OSHA’s reporting requirements that will be reviewed in this section.
- All work-related fatalities must be reported to OSHA within 8 hours.
- All work-related in-patient hospitalizations (even 1 employee), amputations, and loss of an eye must be reported to OSHA within 24 hours.
Employers who have experienced any of the above incidents but were not aware of the above requirements and have not reported to OSHA should report the incident(s) immediately to OSHA.
How to Report to OSHA
OSHA provides a number of ways for an employer to report a fatality, in-patient hospitalization, amputation, or loss of an eye. They are:
- By telephone or in person to the OSHA Area Office that is nearest to the site of the incident. Never leave a message. The employer must speak to a person unless the electronic submission indicated below is used by the employer.
- By telephone to the OSHA toll-free central telephone number, 1-800-321-OSHA (6742)
- By electronic submission using the reporting application located on OSHA’s public website.14
Employers must report and record work-related fatalities, injuries, and illnesses. Understanding how the updated recordkeeping rule affects an employer is critical for an employer to know when and what to report to OSHA and also what to record on OSHA’s recordkeeping forms.
1. OSHA. OSH Act of 1970. United States Department of Labor. https://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=OSHACT&p_id=2743. Updated January 1, 2004. Accessed September 28, 2015.
2. OSHA. Occupational Safety & Health Administration. United States Department of Labor. https://www.osha.gov/index.html. Accessed September 28, 2015.
3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Workplace Safety & Health Topics. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/asbestos/. Updated October 9, 2013. Accessed September 28, 2015.
4. OSHA. Table of OSHA-Approved State Plans: Basic Facts and Information. United States Department of Labor. https://www.osha.gov/dcsp/osp/approved_state_plans.html. Accessed September 28, 2015.
5. OSHA. On-Site Consultation. United States Department of Labor. https://www.osha.gov/dcsp/smallbusiness/consult.html. Accessed September 28, 2015.
6. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Economic News Release: Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries Summary, 2014. United States Department of Labor. http://www.bls.gov/news.release/cfoi.nr0.htm. Published September 17, 2015. Accessed September 28, 2015.
7. Bureau of Labor Statistics. BLS Home Page. United States Department of Labor. http://www.bls.gov/. Accessed September 28, 2015.
8. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Economic News Release: Table 5: Fatal occupational injuries by state and event or exposure, 2013-2014. United States Department of Labor. http://www.bls.gov/news.release/cfoi.t05.htm. Published September 17, 2015. Accessed September 28, 2015.
9. OSHA. Regulations (Standards – 29 CFR) – 1904. United States Department of Labor. https://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owasrch.search_form?p_doc_type=STANDARDS&p_toc_level=1&p_keyvalue=1904. Accessed September 28, 2015.
10. OSHA. Regulations (Standards – 29 CFR) –1904.7(b)(5)(i)(C). United States Department of Labor. https://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=STANDARDS&p_id=9638. Accessed September 28, 2015.
11. OSHA. Brief Tutorial on Completing the Recordkeeping Forms. United States Department of Labor. https://www.osha.gov/recordkeeping/tutorial.html. Accessed September 28, 2015.
12. OSHA. elaws – OSHA Recordkeeping Advisor. United States Department of Labor. http://webapps.dol.gov/elaws/OSHARecordkeeping.htm. Accessed September 28, 2015.
13. OSHA. Injury & Illness Recordkeeping Forms. United States Department of Labor. https://www.osha.gov/recordkeeping/RKforms.html. Accessed September 28, 2015.
14. OSHA. Occupational Safety & Health Administration Home Page. United States Department of Labor. https://www.osha.gov. Accessed September 28, 2015.
About the Author
Mary A. Borg-Bartlett
SafeLink Consulting, Inc.Cumming, GA