For the Record: Understanding OSHA's Recordkeeping Requirements

Workplace safety is critical to the success of any business—and it’s also required by law. That’s why it’s important to understand the ins and outs of OSHA recordkeeping and reporting.

Here, you can brush up on OSHA’s required forms, OSHA terminology and records retention policies to ensure you’re operating in compliance with OSHA regulations at all times.

Which Businesses Must Keep OSHA Records?

Most employers must complete OSHA injury and illness recordkeeping forms on an ongoing basis. However, there are some exceptions. Employers with 10 or fewer employees in total throughout the previous calendar year do not need to complete these forms. This includes full-time, part-time and seasonal workers and applies to the entire company, regardless of how many locations a business has.

In addition to the small-employer exemption, there are exemptions for certain industries, such as restaurants, banks and medical offices. You can find a complete list of Partially Exempt Industries here. On occasion, these exempt businesses may still be required to maintain OSHA records if they are asked to do so in writing by the Bureau of Labor Statistics or OSHA.

Also, it’s important to note that all employers—regardless of whether they are exempt or not—must report to OSHA within eight hours if there is a work-related fatality. In addition, work-related amputations, in-patient hospitalizations and the loss of an eye must be reported to OSHA within 24 hours of learning of an incident.

OSHA’s Required Forms

The three main forms OSHA requires most businesses to fill out and retain are:

  • OSHA Form 300 – Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses (ongoing)
  • OSHA Form 301 – Injury and Illness Incident Report (ongoing)
  • OSHA Form 300A – Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses (year-end report)

Understanding OSHA Terminology

In order to maintain accurate OSHA records, it’s important to understand OSHA’s terminology. Here’s how OSHA defines some commonly used terms.

  • Injury or illness - OSHA defines injury or illness as an abnormal condition or disorder. This may include cuts, fractures, sprains, skin diseases or respiratory conditions.
  • Work related – OSHA defines work-related as something that is caused by, contributed to, or significantly aggravated by events or exposures in the work environment. Work-relatedness is presumed for injuries and illnesses occurring in the workplace or in locations where the employee is located as a condition of employment.
  • Fatalities – OSHA defines a fatality as an employee death that results from a work-related incident or exposure, often related to a workplace hazard.
  • Days away from work – These are considered cases that involve an employee missing one or more days of work.
  • Restricted work activity – An employee is considered restricted if he or she is unable to work a full shift or is unable to perform all expected work activities at least once during a week.
  • Medical treatment – This refers to any treatment for an injury or illness except diagnostic procedures, observation and counseling, and first aid.

How Long Should You Retain OSHA forms?

Filling out the correct OSHA forms isn’t enough. It’s also important that you retain them for the required period of time.

  • You must keep completed OSHA Forms 300, 301 and 300A on file for five years.
  • You must also update Form 300 with any changes that may occur to recorded cases during this five-year timeframe.

In addition, during the retention period you must make these forms available to employees, former employees, their representatives and OSHA officials, upon request.

Don’t forget to post a copy of the annual summary (Form 300A) at each work location in a conspicuous place where employees gather to view work-related notices, such as a break room. You must post this summary no later than February 1 of the year following the year covered by the records and keep the posting in place until April 30 (a three-month period).


Learn More

While this is a high-level overview of OSHA’s recordkeeping requirements, there’s even more to learn. You can dig deeper into the details by reading our Top OSHA Recordkeeping Resources:

  1. Recordkeeping and Reporting Requirements
  2. Searchable OSHA Recordkeeping and Reporting Q&A
  3. OSHA Offices by State
  4. List of Partially Exempt Industries
  5. Establishments who Must Electronically Submit
  6. Injury Tracking Application (ITA)
  7. Q&A Search Page
  8. OSHA Contact Information


By following OSHA’s recordkeeping and reporting requirements, you help ensure a safe—and successful—workplace for all employees.

The information in this blog is intended for general information purposes only and is not a substitute for review of current applicable government regulations, industry standards, or other standards specific to your business and/or activities and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion.


CopperPoint Insurance Companies is a western-based super regional commercial insurance company and a leading provider of workers’ compensation and commercial insurance solutions. With an expanded line of insurance products and a growing 10 state footprint in the western United States, CopperPoint is in a strong position to meet the evolving needs of our brokers, agents and customers.

To learn more about our insurance products and find resources to better manage your risks, explore our website or contact your independent insurance agent.

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