Archive Notice - OSHA Archive

NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and may no longer represent OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.

OSHA requirements are set by statute, standards and regulations. Our interpretation letters explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances, but they cannot create additional employer obligations. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of the requirements discussed. Note that our enforcement guidance may be affected by changes to OSHA rules. Also, from time to time we update our guidance in response to new information. To keep apprised of such developments, you can consult OSHA's website at

April 24, 1992

Mr. Bradford L. Brown
Maine Department of Labor
Bureau of Labor Standards
Research and Statistics Division
State House Station # 45
Augusta, Maine 04333-0045

Dear Mr. Brown:

Thank you for your letter of December 31, 1991, requesting written interpretations for several injury and illness recordkeeping questions. Please excuse the lengthy delay in responding to your letter. I will answer your questions by first restating each one and then answering it. Wherever possible, I will reference the Recordkeeping Guidelines for Occupational Injuries and Illness, 1986 by referencing the page number and question(s) that apply.

Question 1. Should cases be recorded if no known cause for the case can be established?

Answer: When cases arise where the employee has a pre-existing condition and/or a specific event/exposure cannot be identified, a possible "grey area" of interpretation might exist. In these rare but troublesome situations, employers have the ultimate responsibility for making good-faith recordkeeping determinations. Good-faith determinations require some level of judgement, since proper recording of the case will depend on the particular circumstances involved.

Generally, the work relationship for a case is presumed if the case occurs on the employer's premises. One exception to this presumption is if symptoms merely surface on the employer's premises, where the symptoms are the result of a nonwork-related event or exposure off premises. (page 34, question C-8)

An identifiable event or exposure is not necessary for recordkeeping purposes. If it seems "likely" that an event or exposure in the work environment either caused or contributed to the case, the case is recordable, even though the exact time or location of the particular event or exposure cannot be identified. The decision on whether an event or exposure was "likely" would depend on the nature of the business, the type of injury or illness discovered, and the job the injured/ill worker was performing. (page 32, question B-17)

If an employer doubts the validity of an alleged injury or illness and there is no substantive or medical evidence supporting the allegation, the employer need not record the case. (page 32, question B-18)

We are trying to define these situations more clearly in the recordkeeping revision, but some room for interpretation and judgement will always exist. The best advice for employers is to record questionable cases. If the case is later determined to be non-recordable, it can be lined out (removed). This is compatible with the congressional intent of the records, "if the employer is going to err, it should be on the side of over-recording". (page 32, question B-19)

Question 2. Situation 1. If a manufacturing facility with a warehouse and offices in separate buildings are next to one another, can records be kept on one log?

Situation 2. If a health care employer has units such as x-ray, lab, nursing and maintenance all on one grounds, can records be kept on one log?

Answer: Yes, the records should be kept on one log. This question really asks, "What is an establishment?"

The location described in both situations seems to reflect a single establishment, given that the buildings are a "single physical location" and are engaged in a like economic activity as described in Section A. on pages 19 and 20 of the guidelines.

Other locations may or may not be a single establishment. The answer rests with the difference in the processes involved. If the individual processes represent distinctly different economic activities, then there may be two establishments at a single physical location.

Question 3. Is it acceptable to record information for all non-fixed establishments within one company on one log?

Answer: Records for employees subject to common supervision who do not report or work at a fixed establishment on a regular basis may be kept at either (1) the field office or mobile base of operations, or (2) at an established central location. The injuries and illnesses occurring to these employees should be recorded on a single log. (page 21)

If the records are kept centrally: (1) the address and telephone number of the place where the records are kept must be available at the worksite and there must be someone available at the central location during normal business hours to provide information from the records.

I hope this information will answer your questions about the recordkeeping requirements. My staff and I are looking forward to working with you throughout the recordkeeping revision process. Your comments and suggestions have helped us on numerous occasions and I'm confident that Shirley Boulware, our Region I recordkeeping coordinator, will benefit from your experience as well. If you have further questions please contact my staff at (202) 523-1463.


Stephen A. Newell
Acting Director
Office of Statistics