OSHA Postpones Parts of Injury/Illness Reporting Form, Expands Exemptions
by Robert M. Fells, Esq., general counsel
The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has delayed the effective date of three provisions in its new Occupational Injury and Illness Recording And Reporting Rule issued earlier this year. The overall rule becomes effective on January 1, but OSHA has decided to postpone by a year three key provisions: 1) defining musculoskeletal disorders (MSD), currently the subject of new ergonomics rulemaking proceedings; 2) checking an MSD column on the report form; and 3) changing the determination of work-related hearing loss. These requirements are postponed until January 1, 2003. However, implementation of the new OSHA Form 300, "Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses," which replaces the current Form 200, and related forms 300A and 301, becomes effective January 1, 2002.
According to OSHA, the new Form 300 simplifies reporting by using a question-and-answer format with flowcharts and check lists. Small employers (with 10 or fewer employees) continue to be exempt from the recordkeeping requirements and additional exemptions affecting many industries, regardless of size, have been made. Businesses in exempted categories are not required to keep injury and illness records unless specifically requested to do so by the Bureau of Labor Statistics or by OSHA.
Among the industries listed as exempt from most of the recordkeeping requirements, by SIC codes, are 653: Real Estate Agents and Managers, an area that includes cemetery management services, and 726: Funeral Service and Crematories. However, cemetery "upkeep" operations listed under SIC code 078 continue to be covered. Also, the exemption from the recordkeeping requirements do not relieve employers from compliance with additional OSHA standards such as the hazard communication, formaldehyde, or excavation standards, among others.
In addition, 25 states or territories operate their own OSHA-approved programs, which may provide somewhat different requirements from the federal OSHA. Industry members in those states or territories should check for any additional regulations. They are Alaska, Arizona, California, Connecticut (public sector only), Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey (public sector only), New Mexico, New York (public sector only), North Carolina, Oregon, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wyoming.
Businesses required to comply with the OSHA injury/illness reporting regulations must continue reporting all injuries that may be considered MSDs throughout 2002. The postponement means only that employers are not required to categorize an injury as MSD-related. Likewise, work-related hearing loss should be reported under the old criteria of 25 decibels hearing loss in either ear. The new standard proposed to reduce the reportable amount of hearing loss to 10 decibels, but OSHA has determined that additional study is needed prior to enacting the lower threshold. The MSD requirements are being developed in a separate OSHA proceeding on ergonomics. During the summer, the agency held public hearings in three cities to obtain public testimony on developing simple, cost-effective ergonomics regulations.
A complicated and expensive ergonomics program was rushed into effect during the last weeks of the Clinton administration earlier this year, only to be repealed by Congress in a historic first-of-its-kind action. President Bush promptly signed the legislation into law in March, promising to develop more reasonable and cost-effective ergonomic regulations. The ICFA had testified in opposition to the Clinton administration plan and submitted comments in July to guide to Bush administration proceedings. Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao had announced that a report on a proposed ergonomics standard would be published in September, but the department postponed its report due to the September 11 terrorist attacks.
ICFA members seeking more information on the new OSHA work-related injury/illness reporting requirements and exemptions should check the OSHA Web site at www.osha.gov
for details, including forms 300, 300A and 301, logs and summary sheets.