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Voice of Experience: OSHA 300 Record-Keeping Rules

Every supervisor and manager should know who keeps the OSHA 300 log and what is required to document an entry. Every employee should receive awareness training about how entries are documented and what is looked for during an audit. The mystery behind the OSHA 29 CFR 1904 record-keeping standard is a result of its complexity and the confusing ways it is sometimes interpreted. I have been teaching record keepers for more than 25 years, dating back as far as the OSHA 200 days. I find it one of the most entertaining topics to learn about and teach, but it can also be challenging to fully understand. We need to remember that OSHA record keeping is a federal program. All workers’ compensation cases are not OSHA recordable, but all OSHA recordable cases are workers’ compensation cases. Due to the depth and breadth of this topic, I won’t be able to cover every detail in this article, but I will highlight areas that tend to create the most confusion for those who work in our industry.

Required Documentation
An OSHA 300 log is needed for every facility your company has. Note that multiple buildings that are located at one site, have common management and maintain one set of records are considered a single establishment, and thus require only one 300 log. For multiple business establishments located at different sites, however, a separate OSHA 300 log is required for each establishment that is expected to be in operation for one year or longer (see 29 CFR 1904.30(a)). The company I previously worked for kept 260 OSHA logs, and some of those were merely for offices that employed one person. Central record keeping is permitted, meaning that one record keeper can manage multiple logs for various locations from one central office. I am aware of one employee who managed as many as 25 different logs for different addresses. The bottom line is that every employee must be accounted for on an OSHA 300 log.

You can find all of the training materials, as well as the logs in Excel spreadsheet format, on the OSHA website ( I highly recommend electronic record keeping rather than maintaining paper files. All of the 29 CFR 1904 rules and the record-keeping manual may also be found on the OSHA website.

The only entries recorded in the OSHA 300 log are those events that required greater medical treatment than first aid. Remember that anyone – including employees, doctors and nurses – can provide first aid. All first aid incidents and treatments are defined in the rule and illustrated in training programs.

Following are the rare exemptions from OSHA 300 record keeping:
• 29 CFR 1904.1(a)(1), which reads, “If your company had ten (10) or fewer employees at all times during the last calendar year, you do not need to keep OSHA injury and illness records unless OSHA or the BLS informs you in writing that you must keep records under § 1904.41 or § 1904.42. …”
• 29 CFR 1904.2(b)(1), which reads, “Does the partial industry classification exemption apply only to business establishments in the retail, services, finance, insurance or real estate industries (SICs 52-89)? Yes, business establishments classified in agriculture; mining; construction; manufacturing; transportation; communication, electric, gas and sanitary services; or wholesale trade are not eligible for the partial industry classification exemption.”

Recording Criteria
Recordability is spelled out in 29 CFR 1904.4, “Recording criteria,” which states that employers required to do so must keep records of each fatality, injury and illness that is work-related, a new case, and meets one or more of the criteria contained in sections 1904.7 through 1904.11.

Anytime an entry is made in the OSHA 300 log, a Form 301 or an equivalent form also is required to document the entry. Then, depending on the degree of medical treatment, any supporting paperwork created by the attending licensed health care provider (LHCP) must be made available to document any restricted work days, days away from work or fatalities. Certain injuries and illnesses are not required to be documented, such as those that occurred during an employee’s voluntary participation in a wellness program or medical, fitness or recreational activity, or when an employee was eating, drinking, or preparing food or drink for personal consumption.

First Aid or Medical Attention?
There is room for error in simply defining an incident and determining if it needs to be recorded. For instance, the first example of first aid found at 29 CFR 1904.7(b)(5)(ii)(A) is “[u]sing a non-prescription medication at nonprescription strength (for medications available in both prescription and non-prescription form, a recommendation by a physician or other licensed health care professional to use a non-prescription medication at prescription strength is considered medical treatment for recordkeeping purposes) …”

A better definition would be that if the normal dose of an over-the-counter Tylenol is 360 milligrams four times a day, and the LHCP recommends that an individual take 800 milligrams of Tylenol four times a day, this would constitute medical attention even though Tylenol is an over-the-counter substance, not a controlled substance. Also, the refusal to follow the LHCP’s opinion does not change the fact that the recommendation was made; it should still be entered on the OSHA 300 log. If the employee decides to not get a prescription filled, that does not change the LHCP’s recommendation.

In most cases, personal illnesses that occur at work or in the work environment – such as colds, flu, strokes and heart attacks – are not recordable events. The exception would be if the work or work environment promoted a significant event that resulted in an illness or injury.

The Work Environment
In 29 CFR 1904.5(b)(1), the work environment is defined as “the establishment and other locations where one or more employees are working or are present as a condition of their employment.”

If employees are representing the interests of their company on company property or a customer’s premises, they are considered to be in the work environment. Travel status sometimes causes misunderstandings regarding whether an injury should be recorded or not. If an employee is traveling as a condition of employment during normal work hours, an event that takes place is recordable. If the employee is off duty and has established a home away from home, an injury or illness that occurs after normal work hours is not recordable.

Determination of Work-Related Events
If a significant event or incident occurs during the course of work by an employee representing the interests of the company, it is work-related. It is not considered work-related if the event happens after normal business hours on personal business in the work environment, or if the employee is present in the work environment as a part of the general public.

Pre-Existing Conditions
The topic of pre-existing conditions tends to cause confusion. If an aggravation of a pre-existing condition occurs on the job during normal work hours while the employee is representing the employer, it must be recorded. Treatment must be medical attention beyond first aid and provided by a LHCP. The employer then has to determine if the incident is a new case. Here, the bottom line is that if the employee has completely recovered from a former injury, and if they are no longer under any restrictions or medications and have been released for full duty by the LHCP, the case should be considered new. Additionally, the aggravation has to affect exactly the same body part. If it doesn’t, it also is a new case.

OSHA 29 CFR 1904.5(b)(4) states that a pre-existing injury or illness has been significantly aggravated when an event or exposure in the work environment results in any of the following, which otherwise would not have occurred:
• Death
• Loss of consciousness
• Days away, days restricted or days of job transfer
• Medical treatment

Days Away and Restricted Day Cases
The number of days that must be recorded on the OSHA log shall be counted as to the opinion of the LHCP. The total number of days should be calendar days, not scheduled workdays. Days off, vacation days and sick days shall be counted. Employers must abide with the opinion of the LHCP. Even if the employee is no longer employed, the restricted days remain the same. If there is no light-duty work for an injured employee to perform during work restrictions, and the employer sends the employee home, the case then becomes a days-away-from-work case, which directly affects the employer severity and days away, restricted or transfer (DART) rates as well as the experience modification rate.

Lastly, remember the record-keeping rule requires all businesses to keep the current year’s logs and supporting documents in addition to the last five years of all logs and supporting documents. All documents must be presented to auditors within four business hours of a request. Also, the OSHA 300 annual summary should be posted between February 1 and April 30 on a bulletin board in each facility.

There are many other facts and rule interpretations that management and record keepers need to understand to accurately maintain the OSHA 300 log. If you are not totally comfortable with all the rules, seek out an authorized, knowledgeable record-keeper trainer for further training.

About the Author: Danny Raines, CUSP, safety consultant, distribution and transmission, retired from Georgia Power after 40 years of service and opened Raines Utility Safety Solutions LLC, providing compliance training, risk assessments and safety observation programs. He is also an affiliate instructor at Georgia Tech Research Center OSHA Outreach in Atlanta. For more information, visit

Safety Management, Voice of Experience

Danny Raines, CUSP

Danny Raines, CUSP, is an author, an OSHA-authorized trainer, and a transmission and distribution safety consultant who retired from Georgia Power after 40 years of service and now operates Raines Utility Safety Solutions LLC.