Contractors know that their OSHA Incidence Rate — which is based on the number of OSHA recordable injuries and illnesses — can make a difference in whether their company is hired for a particular job. Large companies that hire many contractors will often consider the bidder’s incidence rate in awarding a contract.
Obviously, the best way to reduce the number of recordable injuries is to have a robust safety program that trains employees to work safely. But beyond that, what else can a company do to keep the number of recordable injuries down while complying with its reporting and recordkeeping obligations?
First, make sure that your safety personnel and medical staff understand what OSHA considers First Aid because First Aid treatment is not recordable. Obviously, if an injured employee needs more than First Aid, they should be given the proper treatment. Consider whether first-aid treatment is sufficient in particular instances. While an employer should not interfere with trained medical judgment, or dictate treatment, an over-the-counter Ibuprofen and an ice pack, for example, may be just as effective at managing pain or swelling as sending the employee to a physician for a prescription drug.
Second, make sure your job descriptions accurately reflect what the employee actually does. Too often, employers are tempted to include job duties that are not routinely performed in their job descriptions. Incidents that affect an employee’s ability to perform one or more routine job functions are recordable. Overly inclusive job descriptions may indicate an incident is recordable when it limits an employee’s ability to perform rare tasks. But actually, this is not the case. Remember that for recordkeeping purposes, an employee’s routine functions are those work activities the employee regularly performs at least once per week. If a task is done less than once per week, it should either not be listed in the job description or the description should state that the task is not a routine task and it is performed less than once per week.
Finally, and this may seem counterintuitive for a company that is trying to manage its recordables, but strongly encourage employees to report injuries immediately, even minor ones. This makes it much easier to treat an injury conservatively before it gets worse and requires treatment that makes it a recordable injury. Small cuts can go from not recordable to recordable because of an infection. In fact, I would even encourage employees to report off-the-job injuries, which are never recordable unless they are aggravated at work. Discouraging reporting of injuries may ultimately lead to a greater number of recordables. Not properly managing and training in this area can hurt your company’s ability to obtain that next contract.