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NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and may no longer represent OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.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

June 18, 1996

The Honorable Kay Bailey Hutchison
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510-4304

Dear Senator Hutchison:

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to address the concerns of your constituents regarding the proposed revision to the OSHA injury and illness recordkeeping requirements contained in 29 CFR Part 1904. As you are aware, OSHA published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in the February 2, 1996 Federal Register (enclosed). Among numerous changes to the current recordkeeping system, OSHA is proposing modifications to the coverage requirements of the regulation, namely to its small employer and industry exemptions.


Since its inception in 1971, one of the primary goals of the occupational injury and illness recordkeeping system has been to develop simple recording criteria that would produce consistent, accurate and useful information from the 750,000 employers now required to keep records in any given year. The information generated by the recordkeeping system has multiple uses. The records: (1) assist employers and employees in their efforts to discover, evaluate and address workplace hazards; (2) assist occupational safety and health officials in carrying out enforcement and consultation programs; (3) aid in the development and evaluation of safety and health standards; (4) are used to develop information and conduct research regarding the causes and prevention of occupational injuries and illnesses; and (5) accurately describe the nature of occupational safety and health problems for the Nation, State or establishment.

Current System:

Since 1977, the regulations have exempted employers with less than 11 employees at any given time during the previous calendar year from the regular recordkeeping requirements. Beginning in 1983, OSHA also exempted all employers in certain industries from maintaining injury and illness records on a regular basis, based primarily on each industry's injury and illness experience. Most retail (including restaurants), finance, and service industries are covered by this exemption. Approximately 94 percent of the establishments covered by the exemption were expected to have fewer than two injuries per year. The exemptions were intended to reduce paperwork burden on employers without compromising worker safety and health.

Proposed Revision:

OSHA has reevaluated these exemptions based on the most current injury and illness statistics available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics' (BLS) Annual Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses. The proposed modification of the exemptions is designed to ensure that OSHA's recordkeeping requirements cover those employers with the highest occurrence of occupational injuries and illnesses. The net effect of these changes in coverage will be the recording of more injuries and illnesses, but fewer establishments will be required to maintain records.

Specifically, the proposed rule would exempt employers, including restaurants, who had no more than 19 employees at any time in the previous calendar year. The proposed modification of industry coverage will result in both the exemption of some industries that are currently covered and the coverage of some industries that are currently exempted. The BLS survey shows that in 1994 eating and drinking places reported the highest number of recordable injuries for any industry, with more than 380,000 injuries and a rate of 7.6 injuries for each 100 full-time workers. OSHA believes this injury and illness experience is significant and that the information required to be entered in the records will be beneficial for the Agency, employees and employers in evaluating the safety and health environment of restaurant establishments.

One of the main goals of the revision of the current recordkeeping requirements is to simplify the system and thus lessen the paperwork burden on the regulated community. We estimate that the proposed requirements will result in an overall reduction in paperwork burden of 12% from the current system. The burden of the OSHA injury and illness recordkeeping system is directly related to the number of cases an employer must record, i.e., the more cases recorded, the greater the burden. Thus, employers who experience few or no recordable occupational injuries or illnesses incur minimal burden. It is estimated the time needed to comply with the proposed requirements is 10 minutes per recordable case.

I hope this information will help you address your constituents concerns about the proposed injury and illness recordkeeping requirements. OSHA has had extensive stakeholder input into the development of the proposal, including participation by the National Restaurants Association in a meeting of industry and labor representatives held last year. Please note that OSHA has extended the public comment period on the NPRM to the end of June. We encourage your constituents to submit comments to OSHA's Docket Office, Docket No. R-02, expressing their concerns and any information they can provide to assist OSHA in formulating its final rule. If I can be of further assistance, please contact me at (202) 219-7162. Specific questions regarding the NPRM can also be directed to the OSHA Office of Statistics and (202) 219-6463.


Joseph A. Dear
Assistant Secretary