The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has revised its recordkeeping regulations, 29 C.F.R. §1904, to improve the system employers use to track and record workplace injuries and illnesses. This rule becomes effective on Jan. 1, 2002, and will affect approximately 1.3 million establishments.

Like the former rule, employers with 10 or fewer employees are exempt from most requirements of the new rule, and a number of industries classified as low-hazard (e.g., retail, service, finance, insurance and real estate sectors) are exempted. However, all employers, no matter the number of workers in their employ, must continue to report any workplace incident resulting in a fatality or the hospitalization of three or more employees.

In an effort to make recordkeeping easier, the new rule is written in plain language using a question and answer format, checklists and flowcharts. It also gives employers more flexibility to use computers and telecommunications technology to meet the requirements of the rule. It also clarifies the definition of the historically confusing terms "restricted work" and "light duty," making it easier to record those cases. Work-related injuries are also better defined to ensure that employers record only the appropriate cases, while excluding cases clearly unrelated to work.

The revised rule further promotes increased employee awareness and involvement in the recordkeeping process, providing workers and their representatives access to the information on recordkeeping forms and increasing awareness of potential hazards in the workplace. Privacy concerns of employees have also been addressed. The former rule had no privacy protections.

Finally, the revised rule includes a provision for recording needlestick and sharps injuries that is consistent with recently enacted Congressional legislation that requires OSHA to revise its blood-borne pathogens standard to address such injuries.