From The Ergoweb® Learning Center

OSHA Revises Term “MSD” in New Recordkeeping Rule

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the National Association of
Manufacturers (NAM) announced a resolution of issues raised by NAM in a lawsuit last March concerning OSHA’s revised recordkeeping rule. The settlement assures that the rule will take effect as scheduled on January 1, 2002.

One of the principal issues in NAM’s lawsuit was what constitutes a work-related injury. In the settlement, OSHA explains that a case is work-related if, and only if, a work event or exposure is a discernible cause of the injury or illness, or of a significant aggravation to a preexisting condition and none of the rule’s exceptions to work-relatedness applies. Employers must determine whether it is more likely than not that work events or exposures caused or contributed to the injury or illness, or significantly aggravated a pre-existing condition. Should an employer decide a case is not work-related, and OSHA subsequently issues a citation for failure to record, the burden of proof would then be on OSHA to show the injury or illness was work-related.

A key provision in the settlement is the agreement that OSHA compliance officers will focus initially on compliance assistance, rather than enforcement. As a result, no citations will be issued for violations of the recordkeeping rule during the first 120 days after January 1, 2002, provided employers strive to meet their recordkeeping obligations and agree to make corrections necessary to bring their records into compliance.

“This agreement sets the tone for the kind of relationship we want with NAM, other industry leaders and all employers,” said John Henshaw, OSHA Administrator. “It demonstrates that we can work together for the common goal of worker safety and health. We want employers to have every opportunity to fully understand the key provisions of the recordkeeping rule. This agreement helps pave the way to that

Other aspects of the rule that OSHA agreed to clarify include the following:

  • The rule continues OSHA’s existing policy that an employer need not record, as a restricted work case, a case in which the following three conditions are present: (1) an employee experiences minor musculoskeletal discomfort; (2) a health care professional determines that the employee is fully able to perform his or her job functions; and (3) the employer assigns a work restriction to that employee to prevent a more serious condition from developing.
  • An employee’s report of an injury or illness does not automatically establish the existence of the injury or illness for recordkeeping purposes. The employer must first decide whether an injury or illness has occurred. If the employer is uncertain, he or she may refer the employee to a physician or other health care professional for evaluation.

NAM filed a lawsuit in March 2001 challenging a number of provisions in OSHA’s revised recordkeeping rule. As part of the settlement announced today, NAM will withdraw its challenge. OSHA has agreed to clarify certain provisions in the rule.

OSHA revised its recordkeeping requirements last January. The final rule is effective on Jan. 1, 2002; however, OSHA announced last month that three provisions of the rule will be delayed for one year. They include the criteria for recording work-related hearing loss; the rule’s definition of “musculoskeletal disorder” (MSD); and the requirement that employers check the MSD column on the OSHA log.