In the development of the OSHA Act, congress saw a need to have employers use a system to track injuries and illnesses. In doing so, employers would have a database that could be used to address any hazards in the workplace that have gone unattended.
Excerpt from the OSHA Act: Section 8 paragraph (c) (2)
“The Secretary, in cooperation with the Secretary of Health and Human Services, shall prescribe regulations requiring employers to maintain accurate records of, and to make periodic reports on, work-related deaths, injuries, and illnesses other than minor injuries requiring only first aid treatment and which do not involve medical treatment, loss of consciousness, restriction of work or motion, or transfer to another job.”
January 19, 2001, OSHA issued an updated version of the original standard in the Federal Register.
So, you get a text message or a call from the plant security gate or your receptionist that an OSHA compliance officer is present and asking for a company representative.
Does the company have a policy and procedure for handling an OSHA inspection? Hopefully, they do.
After checking credentials, you and the CSHO (Compliance Safety and Health Officer) go to the conference room to begin the first phase of the inspection, the opening conference.
The CSHO explains the scope of his inspection, which is your recordkeeping and reporting of occupational injuries and illnesses. He pulls out a checklist, begins his interview, and makes his request.
Let’s start with what prompted this inspection. Perhaps the most common reason is the result of a formal complaint from a worker. Maybe the worker was disgruntling or upset about some company work practice or had an issue with their supervisor. Still, he knows firsthand that the company has had work-related injuries and has not recorded the incident for fear of losing business with a client.
A copy of the formal complaint must be given to the employer representative at the beginning of the opening conference. If the employee requests that their name be withheld from the complaint document, then OSHA must remove their name. The CSHO is not allowed to reveal the name of the employee.
What happens next?
The CSHOs will then request copies of the following forms: 300 Log, 301 Incident Report, and the 300 A Summary for the last three years. If the forms are not readily available, the employer has four business hours to deliver them. That’s the law.
The best-kept secret on the OSHA website is the Directive Library. A directive is an internal OSHA policy/procedure that outlines for the CSHO the steps and questions he should use during an inspection of a particular standard.
In this case, the standard, 29 CFR 1904 Recording, and Reporting Occupational Injuries and Illnesses, is the scope of the inspection. The directive that the CSHO will use is the following:
In general, the purpose of the Recordkeeping and Reporting Directive is to guide the CSHO through the inspection process.
Along with requesting the three forms (300 Log, 301 Incident Report, and 300 A Summary), the compliance officer will request a review of the first aid log. Employers are not required to maintain a first aid log, but if the company does have one, then the compliance officer has the authority to see it. Remember, you are talking to a federal agent; perjury is a federal crime.
Requesting the first aid log is used to cross-check the entries with the 300 Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses.
Next on the CSHO list
The compliance officer will request the total hours worked and the number of employees worked for each year and ask for a roster of current employees. At this point, the compliance officer will want to interview a random selection of those employees who are currently available.
What type of question would a compliance officer ask an employee in a private interview? How about “Have you ever seen any workers get hurt here? Loaded question. Sure is. They will expand the inspection review if random sample interviews show sufficient deficiencies.
Another item on the compliance officer’s checklist is the worker compensation case list. Why? This is another cross-check process. Comparing the worker comp cases against the 300 Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses entries.
The compliance officer will check if the establishment has an on-site medical facility and where the nearest emergency room is where employees may be treated. Can he interview the doctor? The answer is yes, he can.
By the way, the compliance officer will come with a medical access order document. This means they can review recordable case information classified as a “privacy case.”
The compliance officer will want to personally interview the person who oversees the maintenance of the OSHA injury and illnesses forms. Does the company have a designated recordkeeper?
What are the potential citations?
Where no records are kept, and there have been injuries or illnesses that meet the requirements for recordability, as determined by other records or employee interviews, a citation for failure to keep records will generally be issued.
When the required records are kept but no entry is made for a specific injury or illness that meets the requirements for recordability, a citation for failure to record the case will typically be issued.
A citation will not be issued when no records are kept, and employee interviews have determined no injuries or illnesses.
Upon completion of the inspection (the closing conference), the CSHO will review and note the meeting findings in his case file.
For more information on this topic: Recordkeeping – Overview | Occupational Safety and Health Administration (osha.gov)