In a BLR webinar entitled "OSHA Recordkeeping: What’s Recordable and What’s Not," Adele L. Abrams, Esq., an attorney and nationally recognized expert on occupational safety and health, offered insight into the recording of illness and injury for OSHA purposes and the possibility of those records being used as evidence to prove violation of safety and health standards.
OSHA policy states that recording an injury or illness does not prove a violation of an OSHA rule. However, admissions of violations in an illness and injury log can be admissible in court proceedings.
Therefore, it very important to be attentive to how an incident is recorded in the OSHA 300 log. Abrams advises you to provide no more than the mandatory amount of requested information.
Providing a very effusive description of a recordable event may give OSHA an "admission-against-interest" and result in both civil and criminal prosecution of the employer.
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For example, if an employee falls and injures his or her back at work, it is sufficient to record the injury and any lost time. It would not be necessary to record whether or not the employee was correctly wearing the prescribed fall protection equipment.
Similarly, recording "occupational illness" can have wide-reaching consequences leading to tort liability. Abrams therefore encourages complete, yet minimal recording of details. A tort is defined as a civil, rather than criminal, "wrong"—for example, negligence.
Some states, for instance, permit injured employees or their family members to pursue a tort action against an employer for exposure to toxic materials even if the incident is work compensable. To defend such an action an employer would have to be able to demonstrate that no overexposure to toxics (such as lead, asbestos, methylene chloride, benzene, etc.) occurred in its workplace. Sampling data would, therefore, become critical in proving the nonexposure.
Abrams says that it is vital to know and abide by your reporting requirements to avoid citation and penalties from OSHA inspectors. But she emphasizes that it is also important to balance the amount of unnecessary information provided in order to protect against vulnerability to further liability for a work-related illness or injury.
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