Workplace injuries and illnesses are detrimental to both employees and employers. Without proper training and safety protocols, occupational hazards can be disabling and even deadly. On top of harm to individual employees, workplace illnesses and injuries are costly to employers in terms of health care and worker’s compensation costs, litigation, and loss of productivity. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires employers to record and/or report cases of workplace injuries and illnesses that meet certain criteria. These cases, known respectively as recordable and reportable events, are especially costly to everyone involved and must be prevented to the greatest extent possible.
In the following, we will discuss OSHA event documentation and disclosure policy as well as ways to prevent recordable and reportable events.
OSHA Event Policies
When discussing record keeping policy, OSHA categorizes workplace illnesses and injury into three types of events:
Non-Recordable: These are events that do not require treatment beyond basic first aid, as defined by OSHA. Employers do not need to document non-recordable injuries and illnesses.
Recordable: Recordable events are workplace illnesses or injuries that require care beyond first aid. Examples include fatality, loss of consciousness, diagnosis of chronic disease, broken bones, and events requiring a hospital visit. Employers under OSHA jurisdiction with 11 or more employees must document recordable events.
Reportable: Reportable events are the most serious category of workplace illness and injury. Reportable events include fatalities, in-patient hospitalization, amputations, or the loss of an eye. All employers under OSHA jurisdiction, regardless of size, must report these events to OSHA. Workplace fatalities must be reported within eight hours, and other events in this category must be reported within 24 hours.
Reducing Recordable and Reportable Events
Workplace injuries and illnesses are largely preventable. Furthermore, when a workplace injury or illness does occur, several steps can be taken to prevent it from spiraling into a recordable or reportable event. The EHS Today article, “3 Ways to Minimize OSHA Recordables,” by Michael Greiwe, recommends the following strategies for reducing OSHA recordable and reportable events:
Utilize Telemedicine and Provide On-Site First Aid:
The article explains that the emergency department (ED) is the most overused part of health care delivery, stating, “Recent statistics show that 70% of ED visits are unnecessary for patients with employer health care.” Once an employee receives hospital treatment for a workplace illness or injury, the event becomes recordable. Employers can reduce ED visits by providing on-site treatment for minor injury and illness.
The provision of proper treatment can be supported by telemedicine. In many cases, the use of telemedicine does not make an event recordable because it is considered part of first aid. Telemedicine is much cheaper than ED visits while still providing patients with expert care. An additional benefit of telemedicine is that employees spend less time waiting to be seen by a medical professional and can often return to work much sooner than if they went to the hospital.
Provide First Aid Education to Employees:
OSHA recommends implementing a first aid program to reduce reportable injuries. Employees should be trained in first aid so that they are able to respond appropriately in the event of a workplace injury or illness. Trained employees are better able to determine the severity of an illness or injury, provide basic first aid, and avoid mistakes that may cause further harm to the hurt individual or those trying to help.
While first aid training is effective, Greiwe stresses that it should not be used as a replacement for medical assistance from a professional in the event of an emergency.
Prioritize Safety and Injury Prevention:
Preventative strategies are cost effective and lower the risk of incidents resulting from faulty equipment or untrained employees. Equipment and machinery should be routinely inspected for damage and code violations. Doing so prevents injury, lowers repair costs, and prevents recordable and reportable events. Employers should provide safety education so that employees are aware of risks and can perform their job duties safely.
Providing frequent safety training increases employee engagement and reduces complacency. The article states, “Research by the American Society of Safety Professionals indicates that keeping your employees engaged is crucial to overall safety, since inattention and inactivity often lead to workplace injuries.” It should be clear to employees that safety is a priority. Employees are more likely to prioritize safety when they are encouraged to do so by their employers. Additionally, your well-publicized hotline can be a powerful way for employees to “say something” if they “see something” unsafe in the workplace.
Safety should be a top priority for all employers. While workplace illness and injury cannot be completely avoided, companies that combine preventative strategies with best response practices successfully lower their risk of recordable or reportable OSHA events. Consider carrying out the above strategies to protect your company and employees.
To learn about a different type of safety concern, see our article here.