"What if …?", two words that are often heard during recordkeeping discussions. OSHA recordkeeping has long been a confusing and often misinterpreted segment of compliance. In an effort to relieve this confusion, OSHA has released a new set of rules for injury and illness recordkeeping. This paper presents a summary of some of the key provisions of the new rule. It also highlights the major changes from OSHA's former recordkeeping regulation. While it does not describe the new regulation in detail, this paper is intended to focus on the improvements in the rule and provide an overview of the new requirements.

OSHA's new recordkeeping rule, 29 CFR 1904, took effect on January 1, 2002 and affects 1.4 million establishments in the United States. In October of last year, the Department announced decisions about recording hearing loss and musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) for calendar year 2002. These issues will be discussed later in this paper.

Like the former rule, employers with 10 or fewer employees are exempt from most requirements of the new rule, as are establishments classified in a number of low hazard industries such as retail, service, finance, insurance and real estate sectors. The new rule updates the list of exempted industries to reflect recent industry data. However, all employers covered by the OSH Act must continue to report any workplace incident resulting in a fatality or the hospitalization of three or more employees.


The major goal of the recordkeeping revision is to improve the quality of workplace injury and illness records. The following improvements are outlined:

  • Improves employee involvement: The rule promotes improved employee awareness and involvement in the recordkeeping process, provides workers and their representatives access to the information on recordkeeping forms, and increases awareness of potential hazards in the workplace. Privacy concerns of employees have also been addressed. The former rule had no privacy protections covering the log used to record work-related injuries and illnesses.

  • Creates simpler forms: The new forms - the OSHA Form 300 Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses, the OSHA Form 301 Injury and Illness Incident Report, and the OSHA Form 300A Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses - include formatting and editorial changes that simplify the forms, make them easier to understand and complete, and facilitate use of the data. The forms have been incorporated into an information package that provides individual employers with several copies of each form; general instructions for completing them; definitions of key terms; examples; and assistance information.

  • Provides clearer regulatory requirements: The new rule is written in plain language using a question and answer format. A flowchart and tables are included to provide easier interpretation of the recordkeeping requirements.

  • Increases employers' flexibility to use computers: The final rule explains that employers are permitted to record the required information electronically, provided the electronic records are equivalent to the OSHA forms. This provision allows employers to take full advantage of modern technology to meet the recordkeeping obligations.

This content is only available via PDF.
You can access this article if you purchase or spend a download.