Whenever the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) publishes a rule, the public is bombarded with information that is either overwhelming or provided in pieces that are out of context. When OSHA’s recordkeeping rule was released on January 19, 2001, many electrical contractors weren’t sure if it was new, adding to their current requirements for keeping an OSHA 200 Log, or a replacement of this requirement.

At this time, the Office of Management and Budget has approved the rule but not the paperwork. Since rules are constantly changing, look for notices in trade publications that summarize new requirements. Once notified, get a copy of the rule in its current state for reference. (See www.osha.gov.)

Contractor compliance as well as securing updates can be made easier by using tools such as the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA’s) software program, the “NECA Safety Expert System.” This software contains a module on recordkeeping that offers a compliance guide, training, forms, and a database for injury and illness records.

OSHA started recordkeeping in 1971 to help employers recognize and correct workplace hazards by tracking work-related injuries and illnesses and their causes. The revised rule is intended to produce better information and simplify the process. New forms have been developed. The old OSHA 200 Log and Summary of Injuries and Illnesses will be replaced by the OSHA 300 and the 300A.

The OSHA 300 is a simplified log and the 300A a summary. The change from the OSHA 201 to 301 is almost insignificant; OSHA generally accepts your workers comp incident report in place of this form.

Low-hazard retail, service, finance, insurance, and real estate employers are exempt from most of the requirements, so are employers with 10 or fewer employees. Logs must only be maintained if OSHA specifically requests it. However, all employers must notify OSHA within eight hours of a fatality or catastrophe in which three or more employees are hospitalized.

Applicable employers must still record and report work-related fatalities, injuries, and illnesses. With the old and new rules, a work-related death or an injury that results in days away; restricted work, or transfer to another job; or medical treatment, beyond first aid or loss of consciousness; must be recorded. The new rule requires the same criteria used for injuries to be used for illnesses.

For deciding whether the death, injury, or illness is work-related, the old rule presumed a work relationship if it occurred on the premises. The new rule states that an event or exposure in the work environment must cause or contribute to the condition or significantly aggravate a preexisting one. Specific exemptions are given for injuries resulting from personal activities, such as eating and drinking, common colds and flu, blood donations, exercise programs, mental illnesses, etc.

A totally new set of recording criteria has been added. An incident involving a needlestick or a cut with an object, which may have been contaminated with another’s blood, must be recorded with the classification noted. Certain OSHA standards require the removal of employees when testing shows they may be at risk of exposure, such as to lead. This must be noted on the log. A Standard Threshold Shift as a measure of hearing loss and a tuberculosis infection evidenced by a positive skin test must be recorded.

On both logs, lost and restricted days must be counted beginning with the day following the injury or illness. The new rule counts calendar days, not work days. Employers may stop counting at 180 days.

A new privacy requirement prohibits employers from entering an individual’s name for certain types of injuries/illnesses. It allows employers the right not to describe the nature of sensitive injuries where the employee’s identity would be known. And, it requires employers to remove employees’ names before providing data to persons without access rights.

An important clarification for the construction industry found in the new rule concerns multiple establishments. The one-year qualification for a job site to be classified as a separate establishment remains. Individual records must be kept at separate establishments. For job sites open less than one-year, OSHA has provided the following.

The log may be kept at a central location if information can be transmitted in a timely manner. Employers have seven days to record new incidents, four hours to get the log to a job site, should OSHA request it; and the log must be provided to an employee who requests it by the end of the next business day.

Finally the OSHA Summary Logs (200 and 300A), both recordkeeping rules, require an annual posting. The OSHA 200 must be posted from February 1 to March 1. The OSHA 300A or equivalent will need to be posted from February 1 to April 30. It must be certified by a company executive’s signature.

If approved, the new recordkeeping rule is scheduled to take effect January 1, 2002. OSHA published the rule now to give employers time to learn the new requirements and to revise computer systems, such as NECA’s Safety Expert System Software.

O’CONNOR is with Intec, a producer of safety manuals with training videos and software for contractors. Based in Alexandria, Va., he can be reached at (703) 628-4326, or by e-mail at joconnor@intecweb.com.