OSHA Recordable Incident Rate: Everything You Need to Know

OSHA recordable incident rate

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is responsible for ensuring that employers maintain safe and healthful conditions for their staff. OSHA accomplishes this by setting and enforcing a multitude of different standards, each of which governs a facet of organizational behavior.

OSHA has created both general standards, which apply to the majority of applicable businesses, and industry-specific regulations for sectors such as manufacturing, healthcare, etc. OSHA regulations apply to private industry and government organizations alike.

Additionally, OSHA provides education and training to workers and employers. It also maintains various statistics on workplace injuries and illnesses and has established several mandatory reporting requirements as a mechanism for gathering data on these incidents.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics also assists in compiling and retaining various injury and labor statistics for private industry.

Of the various labor statistics that the organization maintains, one of the most important is known as the OSHA recordable incident rate. This figure is alternatively known as the total recordable incident rate (TRIR).

Whether you refer to this statistic as the OSHA recordable incident rate or the TRIR, know that it functions as an OSHA standard safety calculator. OSHA uses this data to assess the safety performance of various companies from different industry groups.

It is also possible to use the TRIR calculation for the purpose of evaluating the safety of a particular firm: the higher the number, the better.

You must report recordable incidents to OSHA in order to ensure compliance and avoid incurring fines or other penalties. However, your organization can also leverage the OSHA incident rate formula to track occupational injuries, examine the state of your safety culture, and identify ways to prevent future incidents.

Learn more about the OSHA recordable incident rate, including what constitutes a recordable incident, how the calculations are used, and how to calculate your company’s incident rates each calendar year.

What Is a Recordable OSHA Incident?

OSHA recordable incident rate

All occupational injuries may be eligible for a workers’ comp claim. However, not all work-related injuries constitute an OSHA recordable incident.

Having an accurate list of recordable occupational injuries is critical. If ineligible injuries and illnesses are included on your list, your TRIR calculation will be inaccurate. In turn, this could lead to an inflated number of recordable cases that increases your insurance premiums and negatively impacts your company’s image.

According to OSHA, occupational injuries and illnesses that result in a fatality are considered recordable incidents. Additionally, a work-related injury or illness that results in any of the following constitutes an OSHA recordable incident:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Lost workdays
  • Restricted duty
  • Hospitalization or other off-site medical treatment
  • Loss of an eye
  • Transfer to a less strenuous job

Occupational injuries and illnesses that require on-site first aid but do not bring about any of these results are not considered OSHA recordable incidents.

There are exceptions, of course. For example, if an employee suffers a needlestick injury or is cut by a sharp object that has been contaminated with “potentially infectious material,” this constitutes an OSHA recordable incident. This holds true even if the individual received only on-site first aid treatment.

Other exemptions to the first aid rule include:

  • Employees who must be medically removed under OSHA’s health standard
  • Employees who develop a tuberculosis infection
  • Employees who experience a Standard Threshold Shift (STS) in hearing capabilities

For additional information on qualifying work-related injuries and illnesses, view the OSHA handbook.

Documenting Work-Related Injuries

When a qualifying injury has occurred at your facility, you must document the incident on the appropriate OSHA form. There are three forms used to document OSHA recordable incidents:

  • Form 300
  • Form 300A
  • Form 301

Form 300 lists all occupational injuries and illnesses that occurred throughout the calendar year. The incidents documented on this form are used to calculate your total recordable incident rate. Form 300 data is also used to calculate days away, restricted, or transferred (DART). DART rate reflects on your overall safety culture.

Form 300A contains injury- and illness-related labor statistics. Specifically, it tallies the total number of missed work days and cases that your organization experienced during the calendar year. This document must be visibly posted between February 1st and April 30th each year, even if your OSHA incident rate was zero.

Whereas the information on Form 300A is publicly available, the information on Form 301 contains confidential medical data. You must complete this form within seven calendar days of the incident. Form 301 data must be retained for a minimum of five years.

How Are OSHA Incident Rates Used?

OSHA recordable incident rate

The total recordable incident rate is used to benchmark your company’s safety culture as it relates to other companies in the same industry.

Naturally, high-risk industries like construction, manufacturing, oil and gas extraction, and healthcare are more likely to have a higher total recordable incident rate than other sectors. High-risk industries also experience a higher DART rate, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

With that in mind, it is important to compare your incident rates to businesses in your same industry. For example, if you operate in the healthcare industry, you should use the average incident rates in your sector as a baseline for measuring the efficacy of your own safety program.

Comparing your average incident rates to those of another industry would yield fewer meaningful insights into the quality of your safety program.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics is the best source for up-to-date statistics on incidence rates in private industry. It recently published the results of its 2021 survey on occupational injuries and illnesses, which can be viewed here.

Incident rates and other injury- or illness-related labor statistics are also used by insurers to set and modify your workers’ compensation premiums. Therefore, it is vital that you accurately document injuries and illnesses in accordance with OSHA regulations.

Depending on what industry you operate within, incidence rates may also impact your company’s ability to obtain contracts. Many organizations require contractors to have documented incidence rates that fall below an established threshold. If your incidence rates do not, you may be ineligible to bid on potentially lucrative opportunities.

How Do I Calculate My OSHA Incident Rate?

OSHA recordable incident rate

OSHA incident rates are calculated using the following formula:

total number of work-related injuries and illnesses x 200,000/ employee hours worked = incident rate.

For instance, suppose that two qualifying work-related injuries occurred at your business last year. In this scenario, you would multiply two by 200,000, which yields a result of 400,000.

In this example, let’s assume that you have 50 employees, all of whom worked 40 hours per week for 50 weeks out of the calendar year (resulting in 100,000 hours worked). Therefore, you would divide 400,000 by 100,000, resulting in an incident rate of 4.

OSHA established 200,000 as its baseline for the incidence rates formula because that figure represents the total number of hours 100 employees would work in a year’s time, assuming they average 40 hours per week and work 50 weeks annually.

As a result, incidence rates are expressed in terms of injuries and illnesses per 100 employees. While your business only experienced two recordable incidents in our scenario, your rate is double that because you have just 50 employees. Based on the OSHA recordable injuries formula, your business would hypothetically experience four incidents if it had 100 employees.

How to Account for Business Size When Calculating Rates

Keep in mind that OSHA recordable injuries and illnesses are considered lagging indicators. Lagging indicators document what has already happened. They do not predict future incidents.

Despite this, lagging indicators can still be a valuable tool for enhancing your safety program. To make improvements, closely track your OSHA recordable incident rate over time. You can see if your total recordable incident rate is trending upward, downward, or remaining stable.

As evidenced by the above example, even a handful of work-related injuries and illnesses have a profound impact on smaller businesses’ incidence rates. That is why the Bureau of Labor Statistics categorizes businesses by both industry and size when publishing data on OSHA recordable injuries.

There are five business sizes established by the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

  • Size 1: Businesses with between 1 and 10 employees
  • Size 2: Businesses with between 11 and 49 employees
  • Size 3: Businesses with between 50 and 249 employees
  • Size 4: Businesses with between 250 and 999 employees
  • Size 5: Businesses with 1,000 employees or more

Businesses, especially smaller ones, should be wary of outliers when reviewing past recordable cases and injury rates. Additionally, smaller organizations should consider aggregating multiple years of injury data to generate more accurate results.

When attempting to aggregate data, your business should still use the above formula, including the 200,000-hour baseline figure. However, when aggregating data, your business will need to combine the total number of nonfatal injuries and work hours before using the formula.

For instance, let’s stick with the baseline figures used in the previous example. But in this scenario, your business decides that it should aggregate data from the previous three years rather than the most recent calendar year.

In year one, your company experienced two reportable nonfatal injuries. In years two and three, your business did not encounter any nonfatal injuries.

To keep things simple, let’s say that you had precisely 50 employees, all of whom worked 40 hours per week and 50 weeks annually in all three years. This means that your cumulative “hours worked” figure would be 300,000 and your total number of reportable incidents would be two.

Since your number of reportable incidents is the same, the first figure you would derive using the formula would still be 400,000. But you would be dividing it by 300,000 (the total hours worked over the three-year period). As a result, your total case incident rate would be 1.33.

Aggregating data from multiple years not only yields a low incident rate but also offers a more accurate reflection of your company’s safety culture.

Other Important OSHA Safety Metrics

Incidence rate is one of the most well-known and discussed OSHA safety metrics. That does not mean it is the only one.

OSHA and the Bureau of Labor Statistics track several other incident rates, including the following:

OSHA Lost Time Incident Rate

Lost time incident rate is a measure of how many lost time accidents or injuries occur in a workplace over a period of time. It is usually expressed as a percentage or as a number of lost time incidents per million hours worked.

The lost time incident rate can be used to assess the safety of a workplace and to compare its safety performance to that of different workplaces.

A lost time incident is an accident or injury that results in the worker being unable to work for more than one day. A lost time incident is also an OSHA recordable incident. However, not every OSHA recordable incident is a lost time incident.

The lost time incident rate is calculated by dividing the number of lost time incidents by the number of hours worked and then multiplying by 1,000,000.

For example, if there are 100 lost time incidents in a workplace that has 1,000,000 hours worked over a period of time, the lost time incident rate would be 10.0. Consistently high lost time incident rates demonstrate that poor safety culture is not only negatively impacting employees but also undermining organizational productivity.

Despite the usefulness of this metric, lost time incident rates alone do not provide a complete picture of occupational safety and health in a workplace. Other measures, such as the number of injuries and illnesses, the number of days lost from work, and the cost of workers’ compensation, can also be useful in assessing the safety and health of a workplace.

Formula for Risk

The formula for risk is a simple mathematical formula that can be used to calculate the likelihood of an event occurring. It is often used by businesses and insurance companies to assess the risk of certain activities or events taking place.

The following formula is used to calculate risk:

risk = probability x severity

Probability is the chance that an event will occur. It is usually expressed as a percentage or as a fraction of one. Severity is the amount of damage that could be caused by the event. It is usually expressed as a dollar amount.

The formula for risk can be used to calculate the risk of any activity or event, but it is most commonly used to assess the risk of accidents and injuries.

Total case incident rate, the risk formula, and DART rate are a few of the calculations used to assess the safety culture in your organization. When viewed in light of one another, these metrics provide actionable intelligence that can increase safety culture and reduce workers’ comp costs.

OSHA Recordable Incidents Rates by Industry

OSHA recordable incidents vary greatly by industry. General industry, construction, manufacturing, oil and gas extraction, and healthcare incident rates are consistently higher than those of less risky sectors like workers’ comp claim. This is likely because workers in these sectors are exposed to more risks on a daily basis compared to other professionals.

Naturally, the most commonly violated OSHA standards are typically specific to one of the aforementioned industries. For the fiscal year 2021, OSHA’s most frequently cited violations were:

  1. Fall protection (construction)
  2. Respiratory protection (general industry)
  3. Ladders (construction)
  4. Hazard communication (general industry)
  5. Scaffolding (construction)
  6. Fall protection training (construction)
  7. Control of hazardous energy (general industry)
  8. Eye and face protection (construction)
  9. Powered industrial trucks (construction)
  10. Machinery and machine guarding (general industry)

Understanding the most commonly cited violations will help your business take a proactive approach to employee safety. If you do not operate within one of the previously mentioned industries, you can search frequently cited OSHA standards for your sector using this resource.

Modernize Your Incident Tracking with Safety Software

Accurately recording work-related injury and illness data is critical for several reasons. First and foremost, this data is used to calculate your total case incident rate, which is one of the best measurements of your safety culture.

Additionally, tracking the number of hours worked, illness and injury rates, restricted work hours, and other relevant data will enable you to comply with OSHA reporting requirements while simultaneously protecting workers.

In turn, this data will empower your business to increase productivity, decrease lost workdays, keep workers’ comp costs in check, and maximize profitability.

While you can certainly track these data points manually, investing in modern safety software is the more pragmatic approach. This technology provides real-time insights into safety performance, allows you to track labor statistics and injury rates over time, and ensures compliance with OSHA requirements.

As part of your efforts to increase safety, decrease recordable incident rates, and manage workers’ comp costs, you should also consider investing in other screening and staff management technologies. Specifically, you should explore performance management tools, integrity testing, and candidate scorecard solutions.

You can use these resources to screen candidates and identify applicants who will make a positive impact on the safety performance of your business. The end result will be a safe, compliant, and highly productive workplace.

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