Incident Reporting in the United States

by Hannah Solomon 29 Jul. 2019

Hannah Solomon is an EHS Regulatory Consultant at Enhesa focusing on jurisdictions in the United States.

Recording and Reporting Injuries and Illnesses

OSHA’s standard for tracking occupational injuries and illnesses creates two general obligations for employers: Recordkeeping and reporting. Employers are required to fill out the following three forms in the event of an injury or an illness:

  • OSHA Form 300 (Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses)
  • OSHA Form 301 (Injury and Illness Incident Report)
  • OSHA Form 300A (Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses)

Employers are required to record all work-related injuries and work-related illnesses that result in one of the following: death, days away from work, restricted work or transfer to another job, medical treatment beyond first aid, loss of consciousness, or diagnosis of a significant injury or illness by a physician or other licensed health care professional. Restricted work means the injured or ill employee is restricted from “routine job functions,” which are defined as work activities the employee regularly performs at least once weekly. The standard also requires employers to record all needlestick and sharps injuries involving contamination by another person’s blood or other potentially infectious materials. The regulation includes separate provisions describing the recording criteria for cases involving the work-related transmission of tuberculosis.

Many low-hazard industries are exempt from OSHA accident recordkeeping requirements unless OSHA specifically requires the company in writing to keep records of work-related injuries. Examples of exempt industries include the retail, service, finance, insurance, or real estate industries. A full list of exempt industries is set forth in the regulation at 29 CFR Part 1904 Appendix A. It is important to note that this exemption only applies to the recordkeeping requirements. All employers must still report the death of any employee that results from a work-related incident to OSHA within 8 hours. All employers must report all work-related in-patient hospitalizations, amputations, and losses of an eye to OSHA within 24 hours of the event. Reports can be made by telephone to the OSHA Area Office that is nearest to the site of the incident; by telephone to 1-800-321-OSHA; or by electronic submission using the reporting application located on OSHA's public website at www.osha.gov.

OSHA’s recordkeeping standard requires employers to establish a procedure for employees to report injuries and illnesses and requires employers to tell their employees how to report illnesses and injuries. (Employers are prohibited by the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 from discriminating against employees who do report). Further, employers must guarantee employees and former employees access to their individual OSHA 301 forms. Employee representatives must be provided with access to the “information about the case” section of the OSHA 301.

Employers are prohibited from entering an individual’s name on Form 300 for certain types of injuries or illnesses (e.g., sexual assaults, HIV infections, mental illnesses) and from describing the nature of sensitive injuries where the employee’s identity would be known. Employers are also required to give employee representatives access only to the portion of Form 301 that contains no personal information and to remove employees’ names before providing the data to persons not provided access rights under the rule.

Employers are required to create an annual summary of all illnesses and injuries in the workplace (Form 300A); the annual summary must be posted for 3 months and it requires certification by a company executive. OSHA’s 2019 “Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses” rule requires employers with 250 or more employees that are not exempt from the recordkeeping requirements to electronically submit information from Form 300A to OSHA annually. Employers subject to the rule were required to submit Form 300A for the first time by March 2, 2019 using OSHA’s Injury Tracking Application (ITA). Those employers must continue to submit Form 300A covering illness and injury data from the previous calendar year annually by March 2.

Recordkeeping and Reporting in State Plan States

States that implement their own occupational health and safety programs may have recordkeeping and reporting requirements that differ from U.S. OSHA’s rules. That being said, states with authorized programs must have recordkeeping and reporting requirements that are “substantially identical” to OSHA’s requirements, leaving states with little leeway to deviate from OSHA’s standard. Oregon is one example of a state with slightly different reporting requirements. In Oregon, employers must report fatalities and in-patient hospitalizations of 3 or more workers within 8 hours and all other in-patient hospitalizations within 24 hours; OSHA only requires fatalities to be reported within 8 hours and requires all in-patient hospitalizations to be reported within 24 hours.

In State Plan states, employers will report injuries and illnesses to the state agency, rather than OSHA, and may be required to record illnesses and injuries on state-specific forms. However, all employers that are required to electronically submit Form 300A must submit that information to U.S. OSHA using the ITA.

Determination of Work-Relatedness

To be recordable, the injury or illness must be "work-related." An accident is "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. OSHA presumes that an injury or illness is work-related if it results from events or exposures occurring in the work environment, unless an exception applies. OSHA defines the work environment as “the establishment and other locations where one or more employees are working 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 his or her work.”

OSHA regulations include exceptions that the agency does not consider to be work-related, and therefore not recordable. These include, for example:

  • At the time of the injury or illness, the employee was present in the work environment as a member of the general public rather than as an employee;
  • The injury or illness 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;
  • The injury or illness results solely from voluntary participation in a wellness program or in a medical, fitness, or recreational activity such as blood donation, physical examination, flu shot, exercise class.

OSHA has developed an interactive web-based tool to help employers determine whether injuries and illnesses are work-related and recordable under OSHA's recordkeeping rules. The OSHA Recordkeeping Advisor helps employers determine:

  • whether an injury or illness is work-related;
  • whether an event or exposure at home or on travel is work-related;
  • whether an exception applies to the injury or illness;
  • whether a work-related injury or illness needs to be recorded; and
  • which provisions of the regulations apply when recording a work related injury or illness.

Compliance Resources

While the online tool is a helpful resource, it is only guidance and does not substitute for full compliance with the recordkeeping and reporting regulations at 29 CFR 1904. The OSHA Recordkeeping Advisor is available online online .

Finally, OSHA has issued two interpretation letters intended to assist facilities in determining who the responsible party is to record an occupational injury or illness and whether an injury or illness is work-related and recordable. In Interpretation Letter #1, OSHA clarified that the employer who supervises a given employee on a day-to-day basis must record that person's injuries and illnesses. Furthermore, each injury or illness may only be recorded once.

In Interpretation Letter #2, OSHA determined that the employer must record all work-related injuries and illnesses, i.e., those where an event or exposure in the work environment either caused or contributed to the resulting condition.