The start of a new year represents a time of excitement for those individuals assigned the responsibility of maintaining the OSHA 300 log. It is this time of year when the 300 log for the previous year must be finalized and the 300A completed for posting by February 1.  The purpose of this post is to provide guidance in hopes it will help the reader identify these common errors and simplify the OSHA recordkeeping process.

Failure to Recognize Work-Relatedness
Among the most common mistakes made by employers is to fail to recognize medical treatment. OSHA’s geographic presumption rule makes it simple – if it happens in the work environment (wherever the worker is as a condition of employment) the injury or illness is presumed to be work related. That means unless the case should fall into one of the narrow exemption windows (1904.5(b)(2)), it must be considered a work related case and evaluated as such. This also means that there are numerous injuries and illnesses that are unrelated to work or work activities that must be considered work related. The reason behind this is because the employer is responsible for providing a safe and healthy workplace for employees even when not engaged in work activities. It is also why incidence rates should never be used as a metric because things happen which will be beyond the control of the employer.

Contrary to common (and logical) thought, the worker need not be engaged in any activities related to his/her job. As a case in point, a worker is simply walking through the office and a bone in his foot breaks. The fracture was not caused by a stumble, an uneven surface or any other obstacle or awkward posture…the bone simply broke while taking a normal step. Because this injury occurred in the work environment, it is considered to be work related and thus recordable.

Exemptions to Geographic Presumption
There are nine exemptions to the geographic presumption rule. If any of these can be applied then the case would be considered non-work related regardless of the location at which the injury occurred. However, use of the exemptions is very strict and must meet the exemption precisely in order to be applied.

  • 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, racquetball, or baseball.
  • The injury or illness is solely the result of an employee eating, drinking, or preparing food or drink for personal consumption (whether bought on the employer’s premises or brought in).
  • The injury or illness is solely the result of an employee doing personal tasks (unrelated to their employment) at the establishment outside of the employee’s assigned working hours.
  • The injury or illness is solely the result of personal grooming, self-medication for a non-work related condition, or is intentionally self-inflicted.
  • The injury or illness is caused by a motor vehicle accident and occurs on a company parking lot or company access road while the employee is commuting to or from work.
  • The illness is the common cold or flu.
  • The illness is a mental illness.

Failure to Recognize Medical Treatment
Medical treatment is defined as the management and care of a patient to combat disease or disorder. That leaves it open for much debate in many situations. For example, the plant nurse, ophthalmologist or the employee himself might instill an antibiotic eye medication to prevent infection. The patient is receiving treatment, not to combat disease, but to prevent disease from occurring. Although one might argue this does not meet the definition of medical treatment since there is no disease to combat, the employee has been given a prescription medication, albeit prophylactically, but medical treatment non-the-less. Prophylactic use of prescription medications or over-the-counter medications at prescription strength is still considered medical treatment. OSHA states there is no such thing as over-treatment.

Common Inaccuracies in Completing OSHA 300
There are also a few common errors made when filling out the 300 log. These include the following:

  • Privacy concern cases – not recognizing and properly recording privacy cases.
  • Column (E) – entering the department to which the employee is assigned rather than the actual location where the injury or illness occurred.
  • Column (F) – a failure to provide information required in column (F) including a description of the injury or illness, parts of the body affected and the object or substance that directly injured or made the employee ill.
  • Column (M)(6) – a failure to distinguish between injuries and “other illnesses” and placing a check in column (M)(6) for those illnesses not listed under columns (M)(2)-(5) such as welding flash burn, heat stress or carpal tunnel syndrome.

For a more in-depth look into common OSHA recordkeeping errors with real-life examples, please read the full whitepaper here.

Maintaining OSHA injury and illness records is not an easy task, yet non-compliance can result in OSHA penalties. If you have recordkeeping questions or would like a recordkeeping audit feel free to contact Bill Taylor, CSP at [email protected] or (919) 459-5249.