How Long Must You Keep OSHA Records?

OSHA requires all employers with more than ten employees, in industries that are not classified as partially exempt, to record injuries that are work-related, new, and meet one or more of the general recording criteria. Those criteria include death, days away from work, restricted work or job transfer, medical treatment beyond first aid, loss of consciousness, or a significant injury diagnosed by a physician (e.g., punctured eardrum, broken bone, or serious illness).

You must enter all recordable injuries on the OSHA 300 Log and the 301 Incident Report (or equivalent form), and post the 300-A Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses in a conspicuous place every year from February 1 to April 30. Also, you may be required to complete a privacy case list for injuries or illnesses that are of a sensitive nature, such as needlestick injuries that result in exposure to another person’s blood or other potentially infectious material.

At §1904.33, OSHA tells employers they must “save the OSHA 300 Log, the privacy case list (if one exists), the annual summary, and the OSHA 301 Incident Report forms for five years following the end of the calendar year that these records cover.” During those five years, you must update the stored OSHA 300 Logs whenever you learn of a recordable injury or illness that occurred during that time.

Say, for instance, two years ago, one of your employees tripped on the stairs and hurt his knee. He reported the incident, but needed no medical treatment, restricted work, or any other care that would have required recording. You marked the incident on your “Near Miss” log. However, the employee recently learned that he would need surgery on the knee as a direct result of the incident two years ago. In this instance, you would go back to the earlier 300 Log and record the case.

Employers must also update their 300 Logs during the five-year storage period. If the description or outcome of a case changes, you must line out or remove the original entry and enter the new information.

OSHA does not require employers to update the 300-A Summary or the 301 Incident Reports, but you may do so if you wish.

OSHA is serious about this obligation – so serious that the Agency published a proposed rule titled “Clarification of employer’s continuing obligation to make and maintain accurate record of each recordable injury and illness.” The proposed rule makes it clear that an employer’s duty to keep these records is ongoing and does not expire, even when an employer fails to create the necessary paperwork.

This means that as long as an employer fails to comply with its ongoing duty to record an injury or illness, there is an ongoing violation of OSHA's recordkeeping requirements that continues to occur every day employees work at the site. Therefore, the Agency can cite employers for such recordkeeping violations for up to six months after the five-year retention period expires without running afoul of the OSH Act's statute of limitations.



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