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NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and may no longer represent OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.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

July 16, 1996

Mr. Brad Brown
Planning & Research
Associate II
Department of Labor
Bureau of Labor Standards
Research & Statistics Division
State House Station #45
Augusta, Maine 04333-0045

Dear Brad:

Thank you for your letter dated May 2, requesting interpretations concerning several OSHA injury and illness recordkeeping issues. I will address each issue by first repeating the question and by referring to the appropriate Q&A and page numbers in the Recordkeeping Guidelines for Occupational Injuries and Illnesses.

Q1. Is early interdiction to reduce a soreness or stiffness at work by job duty shifting or temporary assignment a recordable incident? The concern is a company being penalized for recognizing a problem and taking proactive steps to address it.

A1. Soreness or stiffness are subjective systems usually brought on by non-instantaneous events or exposures and evaluated as illness cases. All work related illness cases are recordable. However, subjective symptoms which occur in an employee's upper extremities and are the result of repetitive motion or cumulative trauma are not automatically recordable. The most comprehensive guidance for the recording of Cumulative Trauma Disorders (CTDs) on the OSHA 200 Log is found on pages 14 and 15 of the Ergonomics Program Management Guidelines for Meatpacking Plants (enclosed). The ergonomics guidelines state that a recordable CTD exists if there is at least one physical finding OR at least one subjective symptom combined with 1) medical treatment, 2) lost workdays (includes restricted work activity), or 3) transfer/rotation to another job. Work related soreness/stiffness which results in restricted work activity and/or job transfer must be recorded on the OSHA Log.

OSHA does not "penalize" employers for properly recording work related injuries and illnesses on the OSHA 200 Log. OSHA views the full and accurate recording of injuries or illnesses as an integral part of an information gathering process which can be used to develop effective safety and health programs.

Q. Can a company initiate a partial hearing conservation program? That is, can the employer require hearing protection at work sites or work stations even though the 85 dB TWA has not been reached? If a program can be initiated, what must the employer do for training, fitting, testing, retraining, retesting, and paperwork?

A2. In the view of OSHA, it is acceptable to require hearing protection in the described situation provided the practice does not introduce another hazard. Neither the noise standard for general industry, 29 CFR 1910.95, nor the noise standard for the construction industry, 29 CFR 1926.52, would pertain to this situation, however. Although the employer is not required to provide the audiometric testing for the employees, if testing is provided the employer must comply with standard 29 CFR 1910.1020, Access to Employee Exposure and Medical Records. The standard requires that the audiogram be preserved and maintained, specifies the rights of access to the audiogram, and specifies employee information that must be provided. It is OSHA's position that the audiograms be preserved and maintained, at a minimum, for the length of the employee's service. If the employer does not maintain the audiograms for length of service plus 30 years, as required under 1910.1020, OSHA would treat this as a de minimis violation. A de minimis violation is a technical violation of a Standard which has no direct or immediate relationship to safety and health. A de minisis violation is noted in the inspection case file and no citations or penalties are issued.

Q3. A back injury is several years old and has been treated periodically since the day of the injury (i.e heat or ice or muscle relaxant). The person now reports that it is worse than normal and no specific incident can be identified. This person constantly has some discomfort to the back and the job consists of physical labor. Is each new episode considered recordable if it meets one of the criteria for recording an injury?

A3. Employers are required to make new entries on their OSHA forms for each new recordable injury or illness. New entries should not be made for the recurrence of symptoms from previous cases. The aggravation of a previous injury almost always results from some new incident involving the employee. Consequently, when work related, these new incidents should be recorded as new cases on the OSHA forms, assuming they meet the criteria for recordability (B-12, page 31). When there is no clearly identifiable event or exposure, if it seems likely that an event or exposure in the work environment was an aggravating factor, the case should be evaluated as a new case. Because the employee's job consists of physical labor in this scenario, it seem likely that his job duties may have aggravated the preexisting back condition and the case should be evaluated as a new case.

Q4. Some workers in the health care industry contracted head lice and scabies. Would these cases be considered injuries or illnesses? If Illnesses, what type is chosen in column 7?

A4. As discussed on page 37 of the guidelines, and in the instructions on the back of the 200 Log, conditions resulting from animal bites, such as insect or snake bites are to be considered injuries. Occupational injuries are recordable if the incident results in a loss of consciousness, transfer to another job, restriction of work or motion (including days away from work) and/or medical treatment beyond first aid.

As you are well aware, 29 CFR 1904 is being revised. The comment period has been extended through July 1. I hope you find this information on the current system useful. If you have any further questions, please call us at Area Code (202) 219-6463.


Bob Whitmore
Division of Recordkeeping Requirements