Employment recordkeeping requirements are governed by a confusing mish mash of regulations at the state and federal level. The DOL may have one set of rules for wage and hour records while the EEOC has different guidelines. But even within a single government agency, you can run up against a multitude of different standards for different types of records. For example, OSHA requires employers to keep a variety of logs and documentation for varying lengths of time – from 1 year to 30 years or more! How do you know if you are doing it right?
Refresher Course on Basic OSHA Recordkeeping and Retention
The OSHA 300 Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses is the most commonly used OSHA form. This is where any significant work-related illnesses, on-the-job injuries requiring medical treatment beyond first aid, and fatalities must be documented. It’s important not to miss recording any event outlined under OSHA’s rules. Don’t worry that documentation is an agreement that a claim will be covered by Workers’ Compensation. It’s not. You should be more worried about what happens if OSHA finds out you’ve been lax in your recordkeeping.
Retain these records for 5 years from the end of the year the Log covers. Don’t ship these documents off to storage right away. You may need to access them again. If new information comes to light that reclassifies an illness or injury listed in the OSHA 300 Log (or if an event is discovered that was previously omitted), you have to go back and update your records. You’re much more likely to comply if these files can be readily retrieved. Fortunately, OSHA permits you to keep safety documentation on a computer rather than on paper as long as you follow the agency’s electronic recordkeeping guidelines.
In addition to the Log itself, there are a few other records you need to keep for the same retention period. These include:
- The Annual Summary 300-A (certified as accurate by a company executive)
- All OSHA 301 Incident Report Forms (or equivalent insurance forms that contain the same information)
- The Privacy Case List (Where you document the identifying information of workers who need additional medical privacy due to the sensitive nature of an injury, illness, or exposure)
Wait, There’s More…
This is just the tip of the OSHA recordkeeping iceberg. Employers must also document things like:
- Safety training
- Job hazard analysis
- Internal workplace safety inspections
- Equipment testing
- Actions taken to improve workplace safety
- Exposure to chemical or biological hazards
- A full library of MSDS forms for all hazardous substances present in the workplace
If you aren’t certain that you are meeting OSHA’s requirements and guidelines in all of these areas, the smartest course of action is getting an expert consultation to make sure. Once you have a set of procedures in place for proper recordkeeping and retention, things do get easier!