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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 http://www.osha.gov.
November 1, 2006
Mr. William K. Principe
230 Peachtree St., NW
Atlanta, GA 30303-1557
Dear Mr. Principe:
Thank you for your July 8, 2005 letter requesting an interpretation of OSHA's Injury and Illness Recordkeeping regulation, 29 CFR Part 1904, and its application to section 1904.33.
The following paragraphs were stated in your letter:
Section 1904.33 provides in pertinent part that an employer must update the OSHA 300 Logs to include any changes in the description of a recorded injury or illness. It is common for a plant nurse initially to describe a condition as a "strain." When the employee is then seen by outside treating physicians, the physicians typically make a formal diagnosis, such as "tendonitis," "tenosynovitis," "epicondylitis," etc. If an employee is evaluated by a number of different physicians, the same condition may be given a number of different diagnoses. Sometimes the diagnosis will be fairly obscure, such as "subacromial impingement," which most lay people would not understand.
Are employers required to change an initial Column F description of "strain" to the most up-to-date diagnosis? Would the failure to enter such a formal diagnosis in Column F result in the issuance of a citation?
Response: Section 1904.33 deals with the retention and updating of the OSHA Part 1904 records after they have been created and summarized. This requires the employer to update the entries on the OSHA 300 Log and to show changes that have occurred to previously recorded cases.
1904.33(b)(1) Do I have to update the OSHA 300 Log during the five-year storage period? Yes, during the storage period, you must update your stored OSHA 300 Logs to include newly discovered recordable injuries or illnesses and to show any changes that have occurred in the classification of previously recorded injuries and illnesses. If the description or outcome of a case changes, you must remove or line out the original entry and enter the new information."
OSHA would not consider an employer to be in compliance with Section 1904.33 if the employer fails to adequately describe the injury or illness. For example, OSHA would consider an employer not to be in compliance if an injury was originally entered on the OSHA 300 Log as a sprain, and the employer failed to update the log after receiving new information that the injury was a fracture. In this example, the failure to update the log would materially impair the understandability of the nature of the hazards, injuries and illnesses in the workplace. This analysis is consistent with the inspection and citation procedures provided by OSHA to Compliance Safety and Health Officers (CSHO) in the "Recordkeeping Policies and Procedures Manual," CPL 02-00-135., Chapter 2.
In the scenario you described in your letter, the employer would be required to update the entry on the 300 Log if, based on new information, the diagnosis of the injury actually changed from the original entry. In other words, the log must be updated if the injury was originally diagnosed as a "strain" but was later determined to be a "fracture." On the other hand, an employer need not update the 300 Log if a physician or other licensed health care professional merely refers to an injury or illness by a different or more medically technical name. In such a case, failure to update an entry would not materially impair the understandability of the nature of hazards, injuries and illnesses in the workplace. Please keep in mind that whether records are completed or revised with the detail required by Part 1904 is a determination that can only be made on a case-by-case basis after considering all relevant facts surrounding a specific injury or illness.
Thank you for your interest in occupational safety and health. We hope you find this information helpful. 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. In addition, 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 http://www.osha.gov. If you have any further questions, please contact OSHA's Recordkeeping Section at (202) 693-1875.
Keith L. Goddard, Director
Directorate of Evaluation and Analysis