Generally speaking, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is a federal agency that is responsible for ensuring safe, healthy working conditions for employees in the United States. Employers are required to comply with all applicable OSHA regulations. An employer that fails to do so could face significant sanctions, including financial penalties.
Proper record-keeping is an essential and often unappreciated part of OSHA compliance. It is crucial that employers—especially those in construction and related industries—implement strong record-keeping practices. In this Article, our experienced and seasoned OSHA compliance lawyers explain some key points that employers should know about record-keeping as it relates to OSHA compliance.
Five Reasons Why Record-Keeping is Key for OSHA Compliance
For businesses, there are many different advantages to maintaining accurate, well-organized records. For OSHA purposes, it is especially vital when dealing with workplace safety issues. Proper record-keeping helps ensure that an employer can fully comply with OSHA regulations. Here are five key reasons why record-keeping matters:
- Many Employers are Legally Required to Keep Certain Records: Under OSHA’s Recordkeeping Rule, many employers are required to keep OSHA injury and illness records. OSHA’s record-keeping requirements depend, largely, on the size and nature of the business. There are two exceptions to the Recordkeeping Rule: (1) businesses that, at all times, had (10) or less employees during the previous calendar year; and (2) businesses operating in low-hazard industries, such as finance and retail sales, as defined by the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS). All other businesses must maintain records of work-related injuries and illnesses using OSHA forms 300, 300A, and 301. By adhering to these record-keeping requirements, employers subject to this Rule can demonstrate their compliance with OSHA regulations and avoid potential penalties for non-compliance.
- Proactive Identification of Workplace Safety Trends/Patterns: It goes without saying that employers would prefer to avoid workplace hazards if possible. By maintaining detailed and accurate records, employers can identify trends and patterns in workplace hazards. This information can then be used to take preventive measures to mitigate potential risks and improve overall workplace safety.
- Ensure the Timely and Accurate Reporting of Workplace Safety Incidents: OSHA regulations require employers to report certain types of incidents to OSHA within specific timeframes. For instance, work-related fatalities must be reported within eight hours of becoming aware of the incident. Likewise, injuries requiring Hospitalization or amputation, or that result in the loss of an eye must be reported within twenty-four hours. Accurate record-keeping helps employers comply with these reporting requirements, and prove their compliance, in order to avoid potential penalties.
- Strong Record-Keeping Helps in Responding to an Investigation: For employers, dealing with an OSHA investigation can be stressful and confusing. Accurate and detailed records provide valuable insights into the specific incident in question, including what happened and why, which can help demonstrate compliance and reduce the burden of an OSHA investigation.
- Prove Compliance During Workplace Safety Audits: Beyond investigating specific accidents/incidents that have occurred within workplaces, OSHA also conducts regular audits to ensure that businesses are maintaining a safe work environment and complying with the regulations. Employers who maintain organized and comprehensive records can readily demonstrate their compliance with applicable OSHA regulations, thus reducing the likelihood of citations and fines.
Strategies Employers Can Use to Keep Comprehensive Safety Records
In recognizing that maintaining comprehensive workplace safety records is crucial for employers to provide a safe, healthy, and legally-complaint work environment, you may have questions about how exactly it could be implemented in your business. Here are some general principles that employers can use in creating and maintaining OSHA records:
- Establish a System: Employers should establish a comprehensive safety management system. This is an essential step in ensuring that risks are identified, evaluated, and controlled.
- Audit Your Workplace and Practices: Employers should conduct regular safety audits to help identify and evaluate potential hazards and risks. In addition to internal audits, there are also numerous third-party consulting companies that can provide certified safety audits to help ensure that an employer’s safety management system is OSHA-compliant. Companies should document the findings and implement the recommendations of each audit.
- Develop and Implement a Reporting System: Another key strategy is to create a user-friendly reporting system that allows employees to easily report accidents, near-misses, and other safety concerns.
- Know that Training Matters: Keep detailed records of all safety training sessions. Include details such as, but not limited to, attendance, topics covered, and training materials used. Update these records regularly and ensure that all employees receive the necessary training.
- Securely Retain Records: Store all safety records securely, following applicable regulations and retention requirements, to protect sensitive information and maintain a historical record for future reference.
Contact Our OSHA Compliance Attorneys Today
At Anderson Jones, PLLC, our OSHA compliance lawyers have professional skills and legal experience that you can rely on. If you have any questions about record-keeping practices or how to respond to an OSHA investigation, we can help. Contact us today for a confidential, no-obligation consultation.