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“The only thing necessary for these diseases to the triumph is for good people and governments to do nothing.”

 

  


Parts:    4

 

 

Scheduled or calendar work days. OSHA proposed to count scheduled workdays, consistent with its long-standing policy of excluding normal days off such as weekends, holidays, days the facility is closed, and prescheduled vacation days (61 FR 4033). The proposal asked the public for input on which counting method -- calendar days or scheduled work days -- would be better, stating that "OSHA is considering a modification to the concept of days away from work to include days the employee would normally not have worked (e.g. weekends, holidays, etc.). OSHA believes this change to calendar days would greatly simplify the method of counting days away by eliminating the need to keep track of, and subtract out, scheduled days off from the total time between the employee's first day away and the time the employee was able to return to full duty" (61 FR 4033). The proposal also discussed the potential benefits and pitfalls of counting calendar days:

Another potential benefit of changing to calendar days would be that the day count would more accurately reflect the severity of the injury or illness. The day count would capture all the days the employee would not have been able to work at full capacity regardless of work schedules. For example, if an employee, who normally does not work weekends, is injured on a Friday and is unable to work until the following Tuesday, the "days away from work" would be three (3), using calendar days, rather than one (1) day, using work days. If the same injury occurred on a Monday, the day count would be three (3) using either calendar or workdays. Changing the day count to calendar days would eliminate discrepancies based upon work schedules. Thus, the day counts would be easier to calculate and potentially more meaningful.

One of the potential problems with this change would be that economic information on lost work time as a measure of the impact of job related injuries and illnesses on work life would no longer be available. Employers could, however, estimate work time lost by applying a work day/calendar day factor to the recorded day counts. OSHA solicits comment on the idea of counting calendar days rather than work days, in particular, what potential do these methods have for overstating (i.e. counting calendar days) or understating (i.e. counting work days) the severity of injuries and illnesses? (61 FR 4034)

OSHA received a large number of comments on the calendar day/ scheduled day issue. Many commenters suggested that OSHA track days away from work using its former method of counting scheduled workdays (see, e.g., Exs. 21; 30; 37; 15: 10, 16, 30, 42, 44, 48, 61, 66, 69, 78, 79, 89, 100, 107, 108, 119, 121, 122, 127, 130, 133, 146, 151, 152, 154, 159, 163, 170, 172, 179, 180, 200, 203, 204, 213, 214, 219, 226, 246, 260, 262, 265, 281, 287, 297, 299, 300, 304, 305, 307, 308, 341, 346, 356, 363, 364, 368, 373, 378, 384, 385, 387, 389, 390, 397, 401, 404, 410, 413, 414, 424, 426, 427, 431, 440, 443). Many commenters also suggested that OSHA use calendar days instead of scheduled workdays to track days away from work (see, e.g., Exs. 19; 44; 15: 26, 27, 31, 34, 44, 71, 75, 82, 105, 111, 119, 127, 136, 137, 138, 141, 153, 181, 182, 188, 198, 205, 218, 224, 233, 242, 263, 266, 269, 270, 271, 278, 310, 316, 326, 337, 345, 347, 350, 359, 369, 377, 391, 396, 405, 407, 409, 415, 418, 423, 425, 428, 429, 434, 438). The arguments of each group fall loosely into two categories: which counting method provides the most meaningful data and which method is least burdensome.

Arguing against counting calendar days, a number of commenters stated that calendar days would overstate lost workdays and artificially inflate or distort severity rates (see, e.g., Exs. 15: 10, 16, 42, 44, 69, 108, 119, 127, 130, 133, 146, 159, 163, 170, 195, 203, 213, 219, 281, 287, 297, 300, 304, 305, 307, 341, 356, 364, 373, 385, 389, 390, 397, 404, 410, 414, 424, 426, 431, 440, 443). Some commenters also argued that the information would be "false and misleading" (see, e.g., Exs. 15: 287, 443), "would not indicate true severity" (Ex. 15: 108), or would make it difficult to compare data from the old rule with data kept under the new rules (see, e.g., Exs. 37; 15: 44, 61, 130, 146, 226, 281, 297, 299, 300, 304, 341, 378, 384, 385, 397, 404, 426, 440). Typical of these views was the one expressed by the American Trucking Associations (Ex. 15: 397), which stated that:

This provision serves no useful purpose. Its proponents exaggerate the difficulty in computing days away from work under the current regulation. Instead, it will only serve the purpose of artificially increasing incidence and severity rates which would falsely designate a given worksite as unsafe or delineate it as a high hazard workplace. This false delineation of high hazardousness would also result in the workplace being unfairly targeted by OSHA for enforcement activities. In addition, this change would make it difficult, if not impossible, for employers to compare previous lost work day incidence rates with current rates. Such trend data is invaluable to employers in tracking progress made in eliminating workplace injuries and illnesses.

Other commenters, however, argued that calendar days would be a better statistical measure (see, e.g., Exs. 15: 71, 75, 347, 425, 434, 438). For example, the American Waterways Shipyard Conference (Ex. 15: 75) stated:

AWSC would also urge that "days away from work" be counted by calendar days rather than work days. This would ease the burden on establishments in their recordkeeping and would also make the data more useful. For example, an employee injured on Friday who does not return to work until Tuesday is currently counted as one-day off the job. If "days away from work" are calculated by calendar days, then this same injury would be counted as three days. The three day injury ruling is a more accurate indicator of the seriousness of the injury.

The United Auto Workers (UAW) argued that: "Calendar days are a much better measure of severity or disability than actual days which are adjusted for work schedule, vacations, layoffs and other extraneous disruptions. Frankly, counting actual days is a waste of effort, subject to manipulation and serves no public health purpose. It is relic and should be eliminated. The only reason some employers might wish to retain this measure is because they can generate a lower number" (Ex. 15: 438).

Other commenters were concerned that the change to counting calendar days would have an unfair effect on firms that rely more heavily on part-time workers, use alternative schedules, and/or use planned plant shutdowns (see, e.g., Exs. 15: 42, 96, 121, 159, 163, 213, 219, 200, 262, 281, 299). For example, Dayton Hudson Corporation (Ex. 15: 121) stated that:

DHC questions the concept of counting calendar days versus the proposed scheduled work days in documenting days away from work. Both methods have their value and also potential problems. The calendar method would make it much easier for a company to record the severity of an accident. However, this method would have a significant effect on an industry such as retailing, since the majority of our work force is part-time. If OSHA decides to go with the calendar method, there needs to be clearly defined examples referenced in the standard dealing with part-time workers.

Northrop Grumman Corporation (Ex. 15: 42) asserted that: "[c]ounting calendar days for days away from work would have an adverse impact on those companies, such as aerospace companies, which routinely have shut downs for one or more weeks at a time. Employees injured on the day prior to shut down would have to be recorded as being injured, off work, for the entire time of the shut down." The Texas Chemical Council (Ex. 15: 159) expressed concern about the impact the change to calendar days might have on day counts involving alternative schedules:

We believe the value of the reduced burden is not worth the skewed data that may result. OSHA's proposal may yield accurate data and better reflect severity when applied to work schedules following an 8 hour day, Monday through Friday. However, many industries utilize a 12 hour shift that provides periods of time off longer than the normal two day weekends. The proposed method of counting days could, for example, turn an injury requiring two days recuperation time into a case requiring four or more days to be counted. This would skew severity analysis utilizing days off data.

However, the Eli Lilly Company (Ex. 15: 434) argued that calendar days would help equalize day counts: "[a] calendar day count would ensure employer consistency and comparability even when employers have unique and variable shift works."

Other commenters argued that scheduled workdays are a better measurement because they measure economic impact and lost productivity (see, e.g., Exs. 15: 154, 172, 203, 204, 226, 262, 304, 341, 356, 364, 367, 397). The Fertilizer Institute (Ex. 15: 154) argued that: "Although such a change might simplify the counting of days, it will make comparisons difficult for companies, trade and professional associations, and government agencies that are trying to measure the severity of injuries and illnesses in terms of productivity. In addition to the health and safety of its employees, industry is primarily concerned with the cost of work-related injuries and illnesses, as they relate to lost productivity. Thus, the basis of the lost work day, not the lost calendar day, is the most appropriate measurement to use." The Society of the Plastics Industry, Inc. (Ex. 15: 364) urged OSHA to retain the scheduled days system because of its usefulness in measuring the economic impact of job-related accidents and the incentive such information provides for prevention efforts.

In addition to arguments about the preferred way of counting days away, commenters discussed the issues of simplification and the burden of counting days away from work with both methods. A number of commenters supported using calendar days because doing so would simplify the process and reduce burden (see, e.g., Exs. 15: 71, 75, 82, 136, 137, 141, 224, 242, 263, 266, 269, 270, 278, 347, 377, 415, 418, 423, 434). Two commenters made the point that using calendar days would make it easier to use computer software to calculate days away from work (Exs. 15: 347, 423). Representative of the comments supporting the use of calendar days to reduce the recording burden was the view of the Ford Motor Company (Ex. 15: 347):

The single most significant change that could be made to simplify and reduce the burden of the current recordkeeping system would be a change to a calendar count for days away from work. This would eliminate the need to keep track of and subtract out any scheduled days off from the time of the employee's first day away until the time the employee was able to return to work. Of additional importance, a calendar count approach would provide a more accurate reflection of the severity of injuries and illnesses.

Currently, tracking days away from work is a particular problem in that many individuals no longer work a traditional eight hours a day, Monday through Friday. Some individuals work four days a week, ten hours a day, others work every Saturday and/or Sunday, and some individuals have their scheduled days off during the week. Different employees in the same establishment commonly have different work schedules. Different departments are commonly on "down time" while the rest of the establishment may be in full operation. A calendar count will simplify the calculation of days away from work for alternative work schedules.

In comparison to the current system, a calendar count will provide meaningful, consistent, and useful data, as well as provide an accurate reflection of severity. The calendar day count will also enhance the ability to develop software to standardize the recordkeeping process.

In addition, the change to a calendar day count would enable Ford Motor Company to free up highly trained personnel for more productive and effective pursuits rather than tracking lost workdays under the current system. The cost of these resources to track lost workdays cases exceeds one million dollars per year.

Even some of the commenters who argued against OSHA's adoption of a calendar day approach in the final rule acknowledged that counting calendar days would be simpler but emphasized that this added simplicity and reduction in burden would not offset the deleterious effect of this change on the data (see, e.g., Exs. 15: 44, 61, 69, 121, 154, 159, 170, 195). The Institute for Interconnecting and Packaging Electronic Circuits (IPC) said that: "According to IPC member companies, the potential simplification gains that may be achieved by this proposal would not outweigh the gross overreporting and, therefore, inaccurate data that would result" (Ex. 15: 69).

Other commenters arguing against calendar days stated that counting scheduled workdays is not difficult or onerous (see, e.g., Exs. 15: 107, 146, 387), that counting calendar days would not simplify the counting of lost workdays (see, e.g., Exs. 15: 16, 119, 146, 281, 299, 304, 308, 341, 364, 367, 424), that counting calendar days would add to the administrative burden (see, e.g., Exs. 15: 42, 146, 304, 308, 341, 364, 367, 431), that counting calendar days would add confusion (see, e.g., Exs. 15: 204, 431), or that employers already report scheduled workdays to workers' compensation and thus this information is already available (see, e.g., Exs. 15: 367, 384). Commenters also cited the need to change computer software systems if a shift to calendar days was made (Ex. 15: 122) and argued that retaining scheduled workdays would require less training than moving to calendar days (see, e.g., Exs. 15: 37, 122, 133, 304, 384). The BF Goodrich Company (Ex. 15: 146) summed up these views:

BF Goodrich's business systems are set up to count and track work days and work hours. We do not agree with the suggestion of counting calendar days rather than actual work days for Days Away From Work cases. Counting calendar days would improperly inflate the severity incidence rates which are calculated based on actual hours worked and defeat any efforts to perform trend analysis against previous years. Use of calendar days would also require unnecessary analysis of work capability for days that would not be worked anyway. There would be no reduction in burden in a calendar day system and there would be loss of severity trend analysis capability.

A number of commenters pointed to the difficulty of analyzing days away for injuries that occur just before scheduled time off, such as before the weekend (see, e.g., Exs. 15: 16, 42, 44, 69, 79, 130, 179, 226, 281, 299, 341, 363, 389, 414, 424). The Institute for Interconnecting and Packaging Electronic Circuits (IPC) described the following scenario:

[i]f a worker is injured on Friday, is sent home, and returns to work on Monday, the alternative [calendar day] proposal would require employers to count weekend days in the lost workday count. IPC believes that this alternative proposal would not accurately reflect the severity of the injury since, if the same injury had occurred on a Monday, the worker might have been able to return to work on Tuesday. (Ex. 15: 69)

United Parcel Service (UPS) was concerned about the accuracy of employee reporting of injuries and illnesses under the calendar day system:

[t]he cessation of the effects of an employee's injury or illness cannot reliably be determined in the case of a worker who "heals" on the weekend. Thus, the number of days away from work and their impact on the perception of serious incidents will be substantially inflated. Indeed, it has been UPS's experience that a disproportionate number of injuries are reported on Friday and Monday; inclusion of claimed weekend injury, therefore, would greatly inflate OSHA statistics with factors that honest observers know to be linked, to some degree, with the universal attraction of an extended weekend. The risk, moreover, is not merely inflated numbers, but inflation of the apparent severity of those conditions that are difficult to verify and that are therefore the most likely resort of employees who would misreport a condition for time off (Ex. 15: 424).

Another issue noted by commenters was the difficulty of getting medical attention over the weekend. For example, the American Ambulance Association (Ex. 15: 226) cautioned that "The common practice of a health care provider is to defer an employee's return to work until after a weekend or holiday, due to limited staff resources for evaluating employee status on those days," and the Sandoz Corporation (Ex. 15: 299) noted that "This change [to calendar days] would lead to overstatement of the severity in cases of part-time employees due to the difficulty of getting return-to-work clearance from medical personnel."

Two commenters (Exs. 15: 69, 15: 363) objected to counting calendar days based on a belief that counting these days would raise their workers' compensation insurance rates. For example, the Institute for Interconnecting and Packaging Electronic Circuits (IPC) stated that "Lost time is a major factor in insurance premiums for facilities. As a result, a definition that would over-estimate lost time would significantly raise facility insurance costs" (Ex. 15: 69).

Patrick R. Tyson, a partner in the law firm of Constangy, Brooks & Smith, LLC (Ex. 55X, pp. 99-100), strongly favored moving to a calendar-day-count system, for the following reason:

[w]hat we've seen in some audits is companies that attempt to try to control the number of days that would be counted as lost work days by controlling the number of days that otherwise would be worked.* * *

We * * * encountered one company that announced proudly in its newsletter that one particular employee should be congratulated because when she had to have surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome, clearly work related * * * she chose to have that surgery during her vacation so that the company's million man hours of work without a lost time accident would not be interrupted. That doesn't make any sense where we encourage those kinds of things * * * We ought to consider a calendar count if only to address those kinds of situations. I understand that would cause problems with respect to those companies who use lost work days as a measure of the economic impact of injuries and illnesses in the workplace, but I suspect that a better measure of that would be worker's compensation. If it's a lost work day, you're going to pay comp on it. * * *

OSHA agrees with some of the points made by those in favor of, and those opposed to, changing over to calendar day counts. After a thorough review of the arguments for each alternative, however, OSHA has decided to require employers to count calendar days, both for the totals for days away from work and the count of restricted workdays. OSHA does not agree with those commenters who argued that the counting of calendar days away from work would be a significant burden. The Agency finds that counting calendar days is administratively simpler than counting scheduled days away and thus will provide employers who keep records some relief from the complexities of counting days away from work (and days of restricted work) under the old system. For the relatively simple injury or illness cases (which make up the great majority of recorded cases) that involve a one-time absence from work of several days, the calendar-day approach makes it much easier to compare the injury/illness date with the return-to-work date and compute the difference. This process is easier than determining each employee's normal schedule and adjusting for normal days away, scheduled vacations, and days the facility was not open. The calendar method also facilitates computerized day counts. OSHA recognizes that, for those injuries and illnesses that require two or more absences, with periods of work between, the advantages of the calendar day system are not as significant; OSHA notes, however, that injuries and illnesses following this pattern are not common.

Changing to a calendar day counting system will also make it easier to count days away or restricted for part-time workers, because the difficulties of counting scheduled time off for part-time workers will be eliminated. This will, in turn, mean that the data for part-time workers will be comparable to that for full-time workers, i.e., days away will be comparable for both kinds of workers, because scheduled time will not bias the counting method. Calendar day counts will also be a better measure of severity, because they will be based on the length of disability instead of being dependent on the individual employee's work schedule. This policy will thus create more complete and consistent data and help to realize one of the major goals of this rulemaking: to improve the quality of the injury and illness data.

OSHA recognizes that moving to calendar day counts will have two effects on the data. First, it will be difficult to compare injury and illness data gathered under the former rule with data collected under the new rule. This is true for day counts as well as the overall number and rate of occupational injuries and illnesses. Second, it will be more difficult for employers to estimate the economic impacts of lost time. Calendar day counts will have to be adjusted to accommodate for days away from work that the employee would not have worked even if he or she was not injured or ill. This does not mean that calendar day counts are not appropriate in these situations, but it does mean that their use is more complicated in such cases. Those employers who wish to continue to collect additional data, including scheduled workdays lost, may continue to do so. However, employers must count and record calendar days for the OSHA injury and illness Log.

Thus, on balance, OSHA believes that any problems introduced by moving to a calendar-day system will be more than offset by the improvements in the data from one case to the next and from one employer to another, and by the resulting improvements in year-to-year analysis made possible by this change in the future, i.e., by the improved consistency and quality of the data.

The more difficult problem raised by the shift to calendar days occurs in the case of the injury or illness that results on the day just before a weekend or some other prescheduled time off. Where the worker continues to be off work for the entire time because of the injury or illness, these days are clearly appropriately included in the day count. As previously discussed, if a physician or other licensed health care professional issues a medical release at some point when the employee is off work, the employer may stop counting days at that point in the prescheduled absence. Similarly, if the HCP tells the injured or ill worker not to work over the scheduled time off, the injury was severe enough to require days away and these must all be counted. In the event that the worker was injured or became ill on the last day before the weekend or other scheduled time off and returns on the scheduled return date, the employer must make a reasonable effort to determine whether or not the employee would have been able to work on any or all of those days, and must count the days and enter them on the Log based on that determination. In this situation, the employer need not count days on which the employee would have been able to work, but did not, because the facility was closed, or the employee was not scheduled to work, or for other reasons unrelated to the injury or illness.

Accordingly, the final rule adopts the counting of calendar days because this approach provides a more accurate and consistent measure of disability duration resulting from occupational injury and illness and thus will generate more reliable data. This method will also be easier and less burdensome for employers who keep OSHA records and make it easier to use computer programs to keep track of the data.

Capping the Count of Lost Workdays

OSHA proposed to limit, or cap, the total number of days away from work the employer would be required to record. This would have been a departure from OSHA's former guidance for counting both days away from work and restricted workdays. The former rule required the employer to maintain a count of lost workdays until the worker returned to work, was permanently reassigned to new duties, had permanent work restrictions, or was terminated (or retired) for reasons unrelated to the workplace injury or illness (Ex. 2, pp. 47-50).

OSHA's proposed regulatory text stated that "[f]or extended cases that result in 180 or more days away from work, an entry of "180" or "180+" in the days away from work column shall be considered an accurate count" (61 FR 4058). In the preamble to the proposal, OSHA explained that day counts of more than 180 days would add negligible information for the purpose of injury and illness case analysis but would involve burden when updating the OSHA records. The proposed preamble also asked several questions: "Should the days away from work be capped? Is 180 days too short or long of a period? If so, should the count be capped at 60 days? 90 days? 365 days? or some other time period?" (61 FR 4033)

A large number of commenters supported a cap on day counts (see, e.g., Exs. 21; 27; 33; 51; 15: 26, 67, 72, 82, 85, 89, 95, 105, 108, 111, 119, 120, 121, 127, 132, 133, 136, 137, 141, 146, 153, 159, 170, 173, 176, 180, 182, 185, 188, 194, 195, 198, 199, 203, 205, 213, 224, 231, 233, 239, 242, 260, 262, 263, 265, 266, 269, 270, 271, 273, 278, 283, 287, 288, 289, 297, 298, 301, 304, 307, 310, 316, 317, 321, 332, 334, 335, 336, 341, 345, 346, 347, 348, 351, 368, 373, 374, 375, 377, 378, 384, 385, 387, 389, 390, 392, 397, 401, 404, 405, 434, 437, 440, 442). The most common argument was that capping the counts would reduce the burden on employers (see, e.g., Exs. 21; 33; 15: 82, 95, 111, 146, 154, 159, 170, 176, 182, 188, 213, 231, 260, 262, 265, 273, 288, 289, 297, 301, 304, 305, 310, 341, 345, 346, 373, 389, 390, 401, 442) and simplify the OSHA recordkeeping system (see, e.g., Exs. 21; 15: 188, 297, 373). Several commenters argued that such a change would produce a "significant" reduction in burden and cost (see, e.g., Exs. 15: 154, 159, 203, 297). The Miller Brewing Company comment (Ex. 15: 442) was representative: "We endorse this cap on the days away from work (DAFW) calculation. Once a case reaches 180 days, it is clearly recognized as a serious case. The requirement to calculate days away from work beyond 180 is a time consuming administrative exercise which provides no value-added information relative to the severity of a given case. Again, we support this rule change and OSHA's attempt to simplify the recordkeeping process."

Commenters also pointed out that limiting the day counts would make it easier to count days for cases that span two calendar years (see, e.g., Exs. 15: 153, 194, 195, 289). Other commenters stated that it was difficult to modify the former year's records (Ex. 15: 153) and that the day count cap would ease the burden of tracking cases that span two calendar years (Ex. 15: 289).

Several commenters stated that the benefits of recording extended day counts were insignificant (see, e.g., Exs. 15: 111, 159, 176, 184, 260, 262, 265, 288, 297, 373, 401, 430, 434, 442), that they added negligible information for case analysis or safety and health program evaluation (Ex. 15: 434), and that there was no "value added information" from high day counts (see, e.g., Exs. 15: 260, 262, 265, 401, 442). Others stated that capping the day counts would provide "adequate data" (see, e.g., Exs. 15: 111, 159, 304, 345) and that there would be no loss of significant data for analysis (see, e.g., Exs. 15: 170, 184, 297, 341, 373). The McDonnell Douglas Corporation (Ex. 15: 297) argued that a cap "[w]ould allow industry to avoid the significant and costly paperwork burdens associated with tracking lost workdays, without any appreciable reduction in OSHA's ability to identify significant workplace injuries and illnesses or to assure continuing improvement in workplace safety and health."

Support for capping the count of days away from work was not unanimous, and several commenters opposed a day count cap (see, e.g., Exs. 15: 31, 62, 197, 204, 225, 277, 294, 302, 350, 359, 369, 379). The National Safety Council stated that "[n]o cap on counting lost workdays is necessary provided that the count automatically ends with termination, retirement, or entry into long-term disability. Only a small proportion of cases have extended lost workday counts so there is little additional recordkeeping burden. The additional information gained about long-term lost workday cases is important and keeps employers aware of such cases" (Ex. 15: 359). Other commenters stressed that it was important to obtain an accurate accounting of days away to assess the severity of the case (see, e.g., Exs. 15: 294, 379, 429, 440), that the counts were needed to make these cases visible (see, e.g., Exs. 15: 294, 440), and that the counts demonstrate the impact of long term absences (Ex. 15: 62). For example, the Boeing Company (Ex. 15: 294) argued that

If the count is suspended after 180 days (or any other arbitrary number), an employer will lose valuable information regarding the true amount of lost work days and their associated costs. The experience of The Boeing Company indicates that there are a small number of cases that have many more than 180 days. The result is a disproportionate amount of total costs. Not having visibility of these cases would be a mistake.

The United Steelworkers of America (USWA) offered several reasons for not adopting a day count cap: "The USWA also strongly opposes capping lost work day cases at 180. We believe that no cap is necessary or desirable. Only a very small proportion of cases have extended lost workdays recorded so there is little additional recordkeeping burden. The additional information gained about long-term lost workday cases is important in evaluating the severity of the injury and it keeps attention on such cases" (Ex. 15: 429).

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) opposed the capping of day counts on the basis that the OSH Act requires "accurate" records, stating that:

The IBT opposes the elimination of counting the days of restricted work activity and opposes capping the count of "days away from work" at 180 days. The IBT uses the restricted work activity day count to gauge the severity of an injury or illness. We are supported by the OSH Act, section 24(a) "the Secretary shall compile accurate statistics on work injuries and illnesses which shall include all disabling, serious, or significant injuries or illnesses. * * *. The International Brotherhood of Teamsters maintains that the recording of restricted work activity day counts and counting of days away from work enables OSHA to compile accurate data on serious and significant injuries. (Ex. 15: 369)

After a review of the evidence submitted to the record, OSHA has decided to include in the final rule a provision that allows the employer to stop counting days away from work or restricted workdays when the case has reached 180 days. OSHA's primary reason for this decision is that very few cases involve more than 180 days away or days of restricted work, and that a cap of 180 days clearly indicates that such a case is very severe. Continuing to count days past the 180-day cap thus adds little additional information beyond that already indicated by the 180-day cap.

Selection of the Day Count Cap

A large number of commenters specifically supported the 180 day cap proposed by OSHA (see, e.g., Exs. 51; 15: 26, 27, 67, 70, 89, 111, 121, 127, 136, 137, 141, 153, 154, 159, 170, 176, 184, 224, 233, 242, 260, 262, 263, 265, 266, 269, 270, 278, 283, 288, 298, 316, 335, 341, 368, 377, 385, 401, 404, 423, 430, 437, 442). The Chemical Manufacturers Association (CMA) stated that "CMA supports the use of a cap on the number of days away from work that must be counted. Once an employee misses more than 180 days from work * * * due a workplace injury or illness, the relative seriousness of the incident is determined and little benefit is derived from continuing to count the number of days for OSHA's recordkeeping system." The Fertilizer Institute (Ex. 15: 154) supported 180 days because it "is consistent with most corporate long-term disability plans."

Many commenters who supported a cap on counting days away recommended that OSHA adopt a number of days other than 180 (see, e.g., Exs. 21; 37; 15: 60, 71, 75, 82, 85, 105, 108, 119, 122, 132, 180, 182, 185, 188, 194, 195, 198, 199, 203, 213, 239, 246, 271, 272, 287, 289, 297, 303, 304, 305, 307, 308, 317, 336, 347, 348, 351, 375, 378, 384, 385, 404, 405, 407, 409, 410, 414, 425, 431, 434). The most common argument against capping at 180 days was that a few very serious cases would skew the statistical data (see, e.g., Exs. 15: 75, 180, 246, 271, 385, 409). Hoffman-La Roche, Inc. argued for 90 days on the grounds that "90 days is more than sufficient to get a read on the severity of the injury/illness. This would enable employers to obtain meaningful data that is not skewed by one or two cases" (Ex. 15: 271).

Commenters suggested a number of alternatives, including 30 days (see, e.g., Ex. 15: 414); 60 days (see, e.g., Exs. 15: 60, 108, 119, 194, 203, 246, 287, 405); 60 or 90 (Ex. 15: 407); 90 days (see, e.g., Exs. 21; 15: 75, 85, 105, 132, 182, 185, 239, 271, 272, 289, 297, 303, 317, 336, 347, 378, 409, 410, 425, 431); 50 to 100 days (see, e.g., Exs. 37; 15: 384); 90 to 120 days (Ex. 15: 71); 90 or 180 days (Ex. 15: 434); 120 days (Ex. 15: 198); the equivalent of six months (see, e.g., Exs. 15: 82, 188, 199, 213, 304, 307, 308, 351, 375); one year (Ex. 15: 122); and 60 days after the beginning of the new year (see, e.g., Ex. 15: 195).

The most common alternative recommended by commenters was 90 days (see, e.g., Exs. 21; 15: 75, 85, 105, 132, 182, 185, 239, 271, 272, 289, 297, 303, 317, 336, 347, 378, 409, 410, 425, 431). These commenters argued that 90 days would reduce the burden without a loss of information (see, e.g., Exs. 15: 75, 85, 239, 297, 425), that 90 days is sufficient to determine severity (see, e.g., Exs. 15: 85, 105, 271 272, 289, 303, 410), that 90 days matches existing labor agreements (see, e.g., Exs. 15: 378), and that 90 days limits the problems caused by a case that extends over 2 years (see, e.g., Exs. 15: 407, 431).

NIOSH (Ex. 15: 407) commented that:

NIOSH agrees with OSHA that "day counts greater than 180 days add negligible information while entailing significant burden on employers when updating OSHA records." Therefore, NIOSH agrees with the concept of capping the count of days away from work at a maximum of 180 days, and recommends that OSHA also consider caps of 60 or 90 days away from work.

Currently, the Annual Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses reports distributional data for the number of days away from work and the median number of days away from work for demographic (age, sex, race, industry, and occupation) and injury/ illness (nature, part of body, source, and event) characteristics. The largest category of days away from work reported by the BLS for days away from work is "31 days or more." In 1992, the Annual Survey reported median days away from work that ranged from 1 day to 236 days [U.S. Department of Labor 1995]. For most demographic and injury/illness categories, capping the count of days away from work at 180 days will not alter the values for either the percent of injuries in the "31 days or more" category or median days away from work.

OSHA may wish to consider capping the count of days away from work at either the 60 or the 90 day level. Employers could be instructed to enter a value of 61+(or 91+) to indicate that the recorded injury or illness condition existed beyond the cap on the count of days away from were based on the 1992 Annual Survey data, no reported industry and only one reported occupation had a median of greater than 60 days (dental hygienist, median = 71). There was also a very small number of injury/illness characteristics with medians between 60 and 90 days or with medians exceeding 90 days. Eleven of the 13 instances in which the median exceeded 60 days away from work were based on distributions involving a small number of estimated cases i.e., only 100 to 400 nationally. Capping the count of days away from work at either 60 or 90 days would still allow the reporting of the proportion of cases involving days away from work in the "31 days or more category" that is currently being reported by the BLS. A minor limitation of capping the count of days away from work at 60 or 90 days is that for a very small number of characteristics, the median would have to be reported as exceeding the cap.

Two commenters suggested that OSHA use months instead of days as the measurement (Exs. 15: 304, 404), and a number of commenters pointed out that OSHA's proposed 180 days should be 125 if based on 6 months of actual workdays instead of calendar days (see, e.g., Exs. 15: 199, 213, 307, 308, 348).

After careful consideration, OSHA has decided to cap the day counts at 180 days and to express the count as days rather than months. The calendar month is simply too large and unwieldy a unit of measurement for this purpose. The calendar-day method is the simplest method and will thus produce the most consistent data.

OSHA has decided to cap the counts at 180 days to eliminate any effect such capping might have on the median days away from work data reported by BLS. This cap will continue to highlight cases with long periods of disability, and will also reduce the burden on employers of counting days in excess of 180. Using a shorter threshold, such as 90 or even 120 days, could impact the injury and illness statistics published by the BLS, and could thus undermine the primary purpose of this regulation: to improve the quality and utility of the injury and illness data. Using a shorter time frame would also make it harder to readily identify injuries and illnesses involving very long term absences. The rule also does not require the employer to use the designation of 180+ or otherwise require cases extending beyond 180 days to be marked with an asterisk or any other symbol, as suggested by various commenters (see, e.g., Exs. 15: 31, 62, 153, 289, 374, 407, 425). Employers who wish to attach such designations are free to do so, but OSHA does not believe such designations are needed.

Counting Lost Workdays When Employees Are No Longer Employed by the Company

The proposed rule contained a provision that would have allowed the employer to stop counting the days away from work when the worker was terminated for reasons unrelated to an injury or illness (61 FR 4058). This provision would have continued OSHA's former policy on this matter, which allowed the employer to stop counting days away or restricted workdays when the employee's employment was terminated by retirement, plant closings, or like events unrelated to the employee's work-related injury or illness (Ex. 2, pp. 49, 50). The final rule, at paragraph 1904.7(b)(3)(vii), permits employers to stop counting days away if an injured or ill employee leaves employment with the company for a reason unrelated to the injury or illness. Examples of such situations include retirement, closing of the business, or the employee's decision to move to a new job.

Paragraph 1904.7(b)(3)(vii) also requires employers whose employees have left the company because of the injury or illness to make an estimate of the total days that the injured or ill employee would have taken off work to recuperate. The provisions in paragraph 1904.7(b)(3)(vii) also apply to the counting of restricted or transferred days, to ensure that days are counted consistently and to provide the simplest counting method that will collect accurate data. OSHA's reasoning is that day counts continue to be relevant indicators of severity in cases where the employee was forced to leave work because of the injury or illness.

Handling Cases That Cross Over From One Year to the Next

A special recording problem is created by injury and illness cases that begin in one year but result in days away from work or days of restricted work in the next year. Under the former rule, the employer was to record the case once, in the year it occurred, and assign all days away and restricted days to that case in that year (Ex. 2, p. 48). Under the rule being published today, this policy still applies. If the case extends beyond the time when the employer summarizes the records following the end of the year as required by § 1904.32, the employer is required by paragraph 1904.7(b)(3)(viii) to update the records when the final day count is known. In other words, the case is entered only in the year in which it occurs, but the original Log entry must subsequently be updated if the day count extends into the following year.

In addition to the NIOSH (Ex. 15: 407) comments on the day counts summarized above, the Society for Human Resource Management (Ex. 15: 431) urged OSHA to adopt a lower day count cap to limit the "crossover" problem. Two commenters urged OSHA to take a new approach to cases that extend over two or more years. Both the Laborers' Health & Safety Fund of North America (Ex. 15: 310) and the Service Employees International Union (Ex. 15: 379) recommended that these cases be recorded in each year, with the days for each year assigned to the appropriate case. The Laborers' Health & Safety Fund of North America (Ex. 15: 310) stated:

One concern with a large number of days away from work is how to record the lost days which begin in one calendar year and end in a following calendar year. We suggest that it is best to record the number of days lost from the date of the injury to the end of the calendar year, and to enter the injury again on the following year's OSHA 300 with the remaining days of lost time up to the 180 day maximum. A box should be available to indicate that the entry is a continuation from the prior year.

As stated earlier, OSHA has decided on the 180 day cap for both days away and days of restricted work cases to ensure the visibility of work-related injuries and illnesses with long periods of disability. The final rule also requires the employer to summarize and post the records by February 1 of the year following the reference year. Therefore, there will be some cases that have not been closed when the records are summarized. Although OSHA expects that the number of cases extending over two years will be quite small, it does not believe that these cases warrant special treatment. A policy that would require the same case to be recorded in two years would result in inaccurate data for the following year, unless special instructions were provided. Accordingly, the final rule requires the employer to update the Log when the final day count is known (or exceeds 180 days), but to record the injury or illness case only once. This approach is consistent with OSHA's longstanding practice and is thus familiar to employers.

Miscellaneous Day Counting Issues

Two commenters provided additional comments for OSHA to consider on the issue of counting days away from work. The Laborers' Health & Safety Fund of North America (Ex. 15: 310) recommended that OSHA require employers to enter a count of 365 days away from work on the Log for any fatality case:

In a recent project we used OSHA 200 data from road construction and maintenance employers to determine the causes and relative severities of serious injuries. The number of lost workdays plus restricted work activity days for an injury event or type was used as a measure of severity. In quite a few individual injury cases, the number of days away from work entry was not available because of the severity of the injury or because the injury resulted in a fatality. For recordkeeping purposes, we would suggest a maximum cap of 180 days for a non-fatal serious injury of long duration, and an automatic entry of 365 for fatalities. Using this method, the most severe cases would be weighted appropriately, with fatalities carrying the heaviest weight. Also, entering a lost workday number for fatalities would enable fatalities to count in a single and simple "severity-weighted Lost Work Day Injury and Fatality (LWDIF) rate".

OSHA has not adopted the Laborers' Health & Safety Fund of North America recommendation. OSHA believes that fatalities must be considered separately from non-fatal cases, however severe the latter may be. When an employee dies due to a work-related injury or illness, the outcome is so severe and so important that it must be treated separately. Merging the two types of cases would diminish the importance of fatality entries and make the days away data less useful for determining the severity of days away injury cases. Accordingly, the final rule being published today does not reflect this recommendation.

The Westinghouse Corporation (Ex. 15: 405) suggested that OSHA look at days of hospitalization as a measure of severity, stating "[t]he number of days hospitalized does provide a more objective indication of the seriousness of injury or illness, if for no other reason than cost control by insurance companies. If OSHA can document a legitimate use for an indicator of the "seriousness" of an injury, it may want to consider hospital stay time." OSHA has considered the use of hospitalized days, but has rejected them as a measure of injury or illness severity. Although these day counts may be a reasonable proxy for severity, they are applicable only in a relatively small number of cases.

Paragraph 1904.7(b)(4) Restricted Work or Transfer to Another Job

Another class of work-related injuries and illnesses that Section 8(c) of the Act identifies as non-minor and thus recordable includes any case that results in restriction of work or motion(2) or transfer to another job. Congress clearly identified restricted work activity and job transfer as indicators of injury and illness severity.

In the years since OSHA has been enforcing the recordkeeping rule, however, there has been considerable misunderstanding of the meaning of the term "restricted work," and, as a result, the recording of these cases has often been inconsistent. The Keystone Report (Ex. 5), which summarized the recommendations of OSHA stakeholders on ways to improve the OSHA recordkeeping system, noted that restricted work was perhaps the least understood of the elements of the system.

This section of the Summary and Explanation first discusses the former recordkeeping system's interpretation of the term restricted work, describes how the proposed rule attempted to revise that interpretation, and then summarizes and responds to the comments OSHA received on the proposed approach to the recording of work restriction and job transfer cases. Finally, this section explains the final rule's restricted work and job transfer requirements and OSHA's reasons for adopting them.

The Former Rule

The former recordkeeping rule did not include a definition of restricted work or job transfer; instead, the definition of these terms evolved on the basis of interpretations in the BLS Guidelines (Ex. 2, p. 48). The Guidelines stated that restricted work cases were those cases "where, because of injury or illness, (1) the employee was assigned to another job on a temporary basis; or (2) the employee worked at a permanent job less than full time; or (3) the employee worked at his or her permanently assigned job but could not perform all the duties connected with it." The key concepts in this interpretation were that work was to be considered restricted when an employee experienced a work-related injury or illness and was then unable, as a result of that injury or illness, to work as many hours as he or she would have been able to work before the incident, or was unable to perform all the duties formerly connected with that employee's job. "All duties" were interpreted by OSHA as including any work activity the employee would have performed over the course of a year on the job.

OSHA's experience with recordkeeping under the former system indicated that employers had difficulty with the restricted work concept. They questioned the need for keeping a tally of restricted work cases, disagreed with the "less than full time" concept, or were unsure about the meaning of "all the duties connected with [the job]." (In OSHA's experience, employers have not generally had difficulty understanding the concept of temporary job transfer, which are treated in the same way as restricted work cases for recordkeeping purposes. The following discussion thus focuses on restricted work issues.) The changes OSHA proposed to make to the work restriction concept (61 FR 4033) were intended to address these employer concerns.

The Proposed Rule

The proposal would have changed restricted work recordkeeping practices markedly. For example, the proposal would have required employers to acknowledge that the case involved restricted work by placing a check in the restricted work column on the Log but would no longer have required them to count the number of restricted work days associated with a particular case. At the time of the proposal, OSHA believed that dropping the requirement to count restricted days was appropriate because the Agency lacked data showing that restricted work day counts were being used by employers in their safety and health programs. In addition, the proposal would have limited the work activities to be considered by the employer in determining whether the injured or ill worker was on restricted work. Under the former rule, employers had to consider whether an injured or ill employee was able to perform "all the duties" normally connected with his or her job when deciding if the worker's job was restricted; OSHA interpreted "all the duties" to include any work activity the employee performed at any time within a year. Under the proposal, the duties that the employer would have been required to consider were narrowed to include only (1) those work activities the employee was engaged in at the time of injury or illness onset, or (2) those activities the employee would have been expected to perform on that day (61 FR 4059). OSHA also requested comment in the proposal on the appropriateness of limiting the activities to be considered and on other definitions of work activities that should be considered, e.g., would it be appropriate not to consider an employee to be on restricted work if he or she is able to perform any of his or her former job activities? (61 FR 4059).

Comments on the Proposed Rule's Restricted Work and Job Transfer Provisions

The comments OSHA received on these provisions were extensive. Commenters offered a wide variety of suggestions, including that OSHA eliminate restricted work activity cases from the recordkeeping system altogether, that the proposed definition of restricted work activity be changed, that the proposed approach be rejected, that it be adopted, and many other recommendations. These comments are grouped under topic headings and are discussed below.

Eliminate the Recording of Restricted Work Cases

Several commenters recommended that OSHA completely eliminate the recording of restricted work cases because, in the opinion of these commenters, the concept confused employers, created disincentives to providing light duty work or return-to-work programs, and provided no useful information (see, e.g., Exs. 15: 119, 203, 235, 259, 336, 414, 427). For example, the American Bakers Association said, "We believe that the concept and definitions of 'restricted work activity' should be eliminated. That term and its proposed definition is so ambiguous as to be unworkable, and information gleaned from that terminology would have little reliability or usefulness" (Ex. 15: 427).

The National Grain and Feed Association agreed, arguing that the recording of restricted work cases should be eliminated on the following grounds:

[w]e agree with the conclusion of the Keystone Report that "the recording of restricted work is perhaps the least understood and least accepted concept in the recordkeeping system." We disagree with OSHA, however, that the concept of restricted work is meaningful. For example, there is a wide range of restrictions that may be placed on an injured employee's activity after returning to work depending on the nature of the injury (e.g., the range of work possible for an employee who has experienced a slight sprain versus an employee with a broken bone). Additionally, the concept of restricted work is greatly dependent on individual employee motivation and job description. * * * Importantly, we believe the concepts embodied in the proposed restricted work definition run counter to modern work practices that encourage workers to return to productive work at the worksite. Workers who have experienced minor injuries on the job can return to productive work under employer "return-to-work" programs. For this reason, the concept of restricted work is arbitrary and ultimately of little use to either evaluating the effectiveness of an employer's safety and health programs or determining the exposure of workers to a hazard at a specific worksite. We, therefore, recommend that the Agency delete the category of restricted work injuries from the proposed changes to 29 CFR 1904. Removal of this section will simplify the recordkeeping system and make it more "user friendly." We support deletion of this category of injury because we think it will make the system more complex and is inconsistent with current practices of returning employees back to productive work at the earliest date (Ex. 15: 119).

Revise the Proposed Definition of a Restricted Work Case

Most of the remaining comments recommended either that the definition of restricted work in the final rule be revised to include a more inclusive set of job activities or functions or a less inclusive set. For example, the Small Business Administration (Ex. 51) was concerned that:

[t]he new definition for classifying "restricted work activity" could increase the number of cases that would be subject to this standard, and subsequently, classified as a recordable incident. Small businesses would face increased recordkeeping. Under the proposed definition, a case would be determined as a "restricted work activity" if the employee cannot perform what he or she was doing at the time of the illness or injury, or he or she could not perform the activities scheduled for that day. While this would be a very simple method, it would encompass more recordable incidents. Many workers have a myriad of tasks associated with their job. If an employee can return to work and perform functions within their job description, this should not be considered "restricted work activity". * * *

Several commenters recommended that OSHA rely on a definition of restricted work that would focus on "non productive work" and exclude the recording of any case where the employee was still productive (see, e.g., Exs. 15: 9, 45, 46, 67, 80, 89, 247, 437). For example, Countrymark Cooperative, Inc. (Ex. 15: 9) stated:

[w]e disagree with a portion of the definition for restricted work activity. We agree that this should include injuries or illnesses where the worker is not capable of performing at full capacity for a full shift. However, by addressing the task that they were engaged in at the time of the injury will create problems. Most employees today have numerous assignments and responsibilities. They move from one task to another during a given day and during a given week. What they are doing at the time they are injured may not be the assignment for the next day or the next week. In these cases, they may be back at work in a fully productive role, but not doing the same task as when they were hurt. If they are performing a fully productive role within the same job description, but cannot perform the role of the job they were doing at the time, they should not be penalized. In many cases, this job task may not be active at the time they return. * * * It should be very clear that the ability to return an employee to a productive role (whether 50% or 100%) is extremely important to any "Return-to-Work" Program. If that person is returned to work and is performing at full capacity in a given task within their job description, this should not be recorded unless it meets other criteria such as medical treatment. If we return to the days of recording these and penalizing the employer, they may be inclined to return to the days of only allowing employees to return to work when they are 100% in all given tasks within their job description. If this occurs, we all lose. * * * We do agree that any time an employee is returned to work and is restricted to only perform certain jobs, can only return for a limited duration, or must be reassigned to another task, this should be recorded as a restricted work case (Ex. 15: 9).

Others recommended that OSHA adopt the Keystone Report's definition of restricted work (see, e.g., Exs. 15: 123, 129, 145, 225, 359, 379, 418). For example, the National Safety Council recommended:

[t]he concept of restricted work activity as described on page 4046 [of the Federal Register] is one with which the Council concurs, but the specific wording in proposed section 1904.3 is less clear. The colon following the opening clause of the definition "at full capacity for a full shift:" seems to mean that the employee must be able to perform the task during which he/she was injured and the other tasks he/she performed or would have performed that day not only for the normal frequency or duration, but "at full capacity for a full shift." For example, if the employee were required to open a valve at the start of a shift and close it at the end of the shift, the current wording seems to say that if the employee could not spend the entire shift opening and closing the valve, then his/her work activity is restricted. * * * The Council also believes that the concept of restricted work activity as formulated by the Keystone Report is appropriate in that it represents a consensus among the various stakeholder groups. For this reason, we also recommend that the task limitations refer to the week's activities rather than the day's activities (Ex. 15: 359).

The Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees (UNITE) agreed with the National Safety Council that a different time period should be used in determining what job activities to consider. UNITE suggested that OSHA use the employee's monthly, rather than daily or weekly, duties to define restricted work activity (Ex. 15: 380).

A few commenters expressed concern that use of the proposed restricted work definition could lead employers to include unusual, extraordinary or rarely performed duties in the "work activities" to be considered when determining whether a case was a restricted work case (see, e.g., Exs. 15: 80, 247). For example, the Arizona Public Service Company said:

[d]etermining restricted duty days should remain as it currently is in the Guidelines. The restriction should focus on the ability of the employee to perform all or any part of his or her normal job duties. Focusing on what specifically they were doing at the time of injury could incorrectly base this determination on an activity that is performed rarely. Also, focusing on what they were scheduled to do for that week would not be useful for those whose schedules can change daily (Ex. 15: 247).

Adopt the Americans With Disabilities Act Definition of Essential Duties

The Laboratory Corporation of America's comment (Ex. 15: 127) was typical of those of several commenters who suggested that OSHA use the concept of essential job duties that is also used for the administration of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) (see, e.g., Exs. 15: 127, 136, 137, 141, 224, 266, 278, 431):

[t]he definition used by the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) would be very useful here. That definition indicates that restricted work exists if an employee is unable to perform the essential functions of his/her job. Since these essential functions are identified in the employee's job description, the employer would have a consistent "yardstick" with which to make this determination for each employee.

Adoption of the Proposed Approach Will Lead to Underreporting

Some commenters, such as the AFL-CIO, opposed the proposed approach to restricted work on the grounds that it would result in underreporting:

[w]e believe this proposed provision would entice employers to manipulate records and lead to further under-reporting. We strongly suggest that the Agency adopt the Keystone Report recommendation of restricted work which requires an employer to record if the employee is (1) unable to perform the task he or she was engaged in at the time of injury or onset of illness (task includes all facets of the assignment the employee was to perform); or (2) unable to perform any activity that he or she would have performed during the week (Ex. 15: 418).

Other commenters agreed (see, e.g., Exs. 20, 15: 17, 129, 418). For example, the United Brotherhood of Carpenters (UBC) Health & Safety Fund of North America argued in favor of a broader definition to avoid this problem:

[t]he majority of workers represented by the UBC, such as carpenters and millwrights, routinely perform a wide variety of tasks during their normal workdays in either construction or industrial settings. Therefore, OSHA should not limit the classification of "restricted work activity" to either "the task he or she was engaged in at the time of the injury" or his or her daily work activity (daily work activity includes all assignments the employee was expected to perform on the day of the injury or onset of illness)" as proposed. The UBC feels that the current proposal would allow for manipulation of the records and will lead to serious under reporting. Many workplaces have armies of "walking wounded" rather than reporting lost or restricted work activity. OSHA should at the very least adopt the position of the Keystone Report which recommended that restricted work activity should be recorded if the employee is "(1) unable to perform the task he or she was engaged in at the time of the injury or onset of illness, or (2) unable to perform any activity that he or she would have performed during the week." The UBC believes that the best definition of restricted work activity would be any illness or injury which inhibits, interferes with, or prevents a worker from performing any or all of the functions considered to be a normal part of his or her trade or occupation as defined in the applicable job description (Ex. 20).

Do Not Count Incidents Involving Only One or a Few Days as Restricted Work

A number of commenters recommended that restricted work activity involving only the day of injury/illness onset should not trigger an OSHA recordable case (see, e.g., Exs. 15: 19, 44, 146, 154, 156, 198, 364, 374, 391). Typical of these comments is one from the Society of the Plastics Industry, Inc.:

[e]mployers have had problems with OSHA's definition of restricted work activity because OSHA's interpretation that having any work restriction, even one which lasts only for the remainder of the shift and which imposes no significant limitations on the employee's ability to perform his or her job, makes a case recordable. OSHA should adopt the administratively simple and common-sense rule that restricted work activity on the day of the case report does not make the case recordable. . . . The definition of "restricted work activity" should be clarified to state that the criteria apply only to days following the day of injury or onset of the illness. An employee's inability to work a full shift on the actual date of injury or onset of illness should not require recording as a restricted work case. As noted above, because OSHA's interpretation that having any work restriction, even one which lasts only for the remainder of the shift and which imposes no significant limitations on the employee's ability to perform his or her job, makes a case recordable, many non-serious, non-disabling cases are now recorded. Cases which do not otherwise meet the recordability criteria should not be recordable. Therefore, as recommended above, OSHA should eliminate the current requirement to record cases in which restricted work activity occurs only on the day of the case report (Ex. 15: 364).

The Kodak Company urged OSHA not to count cases involving restrictions lasting only for three days as restricted work cases on the grounds that such cases are "minor": "Restricted work activity allows employers and employees to remain at work. This is a win-win situation for both. Kodak suggests restricted work activity be counted only if the restriction lasts longer than 3 working days. Hence, only serious cases would be recorded" (Ex. 15: 322).

Adopt the Proposed Approach

A large number of commenters supported OSHA's proposed definition, however (see, e.g., Exs. 27, 15: 26, 61, 70, 133, 159, 171, 185, 199, 204, 242, 263, 269, 270, 272, 283, 303, 305, 307, 317, 318, 324, 334, 347, 351, 373, 375, 377, 378, 384, 390, 392, 405, 409, 413, 425, 430). Typical of these were comments from the New Jersey Department of Labor (Ex. 15: 70), which commented:

[p]roviding a clear definition of what constitutes restricted work and an item to indicate that an injured employee has been shifted to restricted work activity should improve the accuracy and completeness of case reporting. Identifying the actual number of cases in which employees are shifted to alternate work, which are thought to be under reported, and adding the date when the employee returned to his/her usual work will help to assess the impact of these incidents.

The American Petroleum Institute, which believed that the proposed definition would be easy to interpret and would therefore improve recording consistency, stated: "API strongly supports OSHA's proposed definition of restricted activity. Because it is much more logical and easy to understand than the current definition, API believes it will lead to greater consistency" (Ex. 15: 375).

Use Different Triggers Than Those Proposed

The Commonwealth Edison Company recommended that restricted work be defined only in terms of the hours the employee is able to work, not the functions the employee is able to perform:

[C]omEd disagrees with OSHA on its definition of "restricted work activity". We propose that OSHA consider that restricted work activity simply state "Restricted work activity means the worker, due to his or her injury or illness, is unable to work a full shift." OSHA's proposed definition of restricted work activity is even more confusing than the current one. ComEd's proposed definition will allow quantifiable, direct cost tracking for this category of injury or illness. Workers will more than likely have some kind of meaningful work waiting for them if the injury is not disabling. If he or she is able to work the required normal shift hours, don't count the case as restricted. If they miss the entire shift, count is as a day away from work. If they miss part of the shift, count it as restricted (Ex. 15: 277).

Two commenters suggested that a case should only be considered restricted when it involves both medical treatment and work restrictions (Exs. 15: 9, 348). For example, the E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Company (DuPont) said that the

"Restricted Work Activity" definition is a definite improvement over the current one. Suggest making treatment AND restriction the criteria. An insignificant injury can result in being told not to climb ladders. This does not negate the ability to do the job; it just limits the job to levels where ladder climbing is not required. * * * Restricted work activity is more dependent on timing and job than on injury severity. It doesn't necessarily focus on hazardous conditions. Certainly the definition in the proposed guidelines is far more specific and appropriate than the current one. We suggest consideration be given to dropping the Restricted category where medical treatment is not also given. For example, a slight muscle strain will result in advice not to climb ladders. The case would be in the restricted category although the treatment, if any, would be at the first aid level. Injury severity is the equivalent of a cut finger" (Ex. 15: 348).

Other comments sought a broader, more inclusive definition of restricted work, one that relies on job descriptions (see, e.g., Exs. 15: 41, 62, 198, 426). For example, Robert L. Rowan, Jr. stated:

[t]he definition of "restricted work activity" also concerns me and I believe it is unsuitable. The definition refers to an employee who is not capable of performing at full capacity for a full shift the "task" that he or she was engaged in at the time of the injury or onset of illness. The definition should include "any and all tasks" within the employee's clearly defined job description" (Ex. 15: 62).

The Maine Department of Labor, however, preferred the former rule's interpretation, with some modifications:

[w]e agree that there should be no mention of "normal" duties in the definition. Include: temporary transfer to a position or department other than the position or department the worker was working at when he/she was injured. Some of these can be detected on payroll records; only being able to work part of their workday. Time forms could raise suspicion here; a health care provider puts the person on written restrictions unless the employer can show that the restrictions listed do not impact the employee's ability to do his or her scheduled job during the time period of the restrictions. Keep a copy of the restrictions in the file. The doctor's name on the OSHA 301 serves as another possible check (Ex. 15:41).

Miscellaneous Comments and Questions

There were also a variety of miscellaneous comments and questions about the proposed approach to the recording of restricted work cases. For example, Bob Evans Farms suggested that:

[w]hen considering this proposal, OSHA needs to keep in mind the special nature of the restaurant business. It is not uncommon for a cook to cut himself or herself, apply a Band-Aid, and then temporarily be reassigned to janitorial work for a day or two to keep the cut dry while it heals. This could be considered work duty modification and would then need to be reported to OSHA. As you can see, this type of minor occurrence would clog the system with needless paper (Exs. 15: 3, 4, 5, 6).

Phibro-Tech, Inc. offered this comment:

[a] factory employee who normally performs heavy labor may be assigned office work as a restricted work activity, and may not actually be contributing anything meaningful to the job. Will employers be required to limit what is considered "light duty" tasks? Will there be directives as to when an employee should really be off work or when he can be on "light duty"? Occupational physicians all have different opinions as to when an employee can return for light or full duty. It would be helpful to have more direction on this issue so employees aren't sent back to work too soon or kept off on lost time too long (Ex. 15: 35).

The law firm of Constangy, Brooks & Smith, LLC, asked, "[w]ould a restriction of piece rate or production rate be considered restricted duty under the proposed definition even though it is not considered restricted duty under the present guidelines?" (Ex. 15: 428). Miller Brewing Company added, "[w]ould also recommend that OSHA attempt to clarify whether a treating physician's [non-specific] return to work instructions such as "8 hours only," "self restrict as needed," and "work at your own pace" will constitute restricted work activity under the proposed recordkeeping rule" (Ex. 15: 442).

The Pacific Maritime Association stated:

This is another example where the ILWU/PMA workforce does not fit into the proposed recordkeeping system. The regulation as written pertains to employers who assign their employees to work tasks. As previously mentioned, in our industry it is the employee who selects the job they will perform. This dispatch system, or job selection process, presents many problems when the maritime industry is required to conform to requirements established for traditional employee/employer relationships found in general industry. At the present time there is no method available to determine why an individual longshoreman selects a specific job. Therefore, the requirement to identify, track, and record "restricted work activity" may be impossible to accomplish [in the maritime industry] (Ex. 15: 95).

Preventive Job Transfers

Several commenters (see, e.g., Exs. 25; 15: 69, 156, 406) urged OSHA to make some accommodation for "preventive transfers" and medical removals. Many transfers and removals of this nature are related to work-related musculoskeletal disorders and are used to prevent minor musculoskeletal soreness from becoming worse. The following comments are representative of the views of these commenters. The Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart (ODNSS) coalition commented:

[t]his definition [the proposed definition of restricted work] is overly broad, penalizes employers who have a light duty program in place, and fails to take into account that (1) today's employees increasingly are cross trained and perform varied tasks, and (2) the ability of an employee to perform alternative meaningful work mitigates the seriousness of the inability to perform work in the two categories set out in the definition as proposed. The ODNSS Coalition recommends curing these defects by adding the following proviso to the proposed definition: "The case should be recorded as a restricted work case UNLESS the restrictive work activity is undertaken to relieve minor soreness experienced by a newly hired or transferred employee during a break-in phase to prevent the soreness from worsening, or the employee otherwise is able to perform other existing full-time duties." The appropriate nature of the recommended proviso is underscored by a baseball analogy where the right fielder and the center fielder change positions. They both continue to play on the same team and make substantial contributions, but the strain on the new right fielder is less because he doesn't have as much ground to cover (Ex. 15: 406).

The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) summed up its views as follows:

[a] preventive or prophylactic measure such as medical removal (as opposed to a restorative or curative measure) is not and should not be deemed medical treatment, a job transfer or restricted activity for purposes of recordability, in the absence of a substantial impairment of a bodily function (Ex. 25).

Although Organization Resource Counselors (ORC) generally endorsed the proposed approach to the treatment of restricted work cases, it did express concern about how medical removal cases would be treated under the proposed definition:

[t]he proposed definition of restricted work is a significant improvement over the current [former] one, which was considered by many employers to be unfair and confusing. It is no secret that many employers did not understand the current restricted work rules and, as a result, did not follow them consistently. Additionally, the [proposed] elimination of the count of restricted workdays is appropriate and is a recognition by OSHA that the recording of this count is of little value to either the Agency or employers in program evaluation or program development. * * * Additionally, requirements for the recording of either voluntary or mandatory medical removals where no additional symptoms are present are examples of appropriate action taken by employers to prevent harm to employees and not of a recordable injury or illness. * * *" (Ex. 15: 358).

Final Rule's Restricted Work and Job Transfer Provisions, and OSHA's Reasons for Adopting Them

Paragraph 1904.7(b)(4) contains the restricted work and job transfer provisions of the final rule. These provisions clarify the definition of restricted work in light of the comments received and continue, with a few exceptions, most of the former rule's requirements with regard to these kinds of cases. OSHA finds, based on a review of the record, that these provisions of the final rule will increase awareness among employers of the importance of recording restricted work activity and job transfer cases and make the recordkeeping system more accurate and the process more efficient.

OSHA believes that it is even more important today than formerly that the definition of restricted work included in the final rule be clear and widely understood, because employers have recently been relying on restricted work (or "light duty") with increasing frequency, largely in an effort to encourage injured or ill employees to return to work as soon as possible. According to BLS data, this category of cases has grown by nearly 70% in the last six years. In 1992, for example, 9% of all injuries and illnesses (or a total of 622,300 cases) recorded as lost workday cases were classified in this way solely because of restricted work days, while in 1998, nearly 18% of all injury and illness cases (or a total of 1,050,200 cases) were recorded as lost workday cases only because they involved restricted work [BLS Press Release 99-358, 12-16-99). The return-to-work programs increasingly being relied on by employers (often at the recommendation of their workers' compensation insurers) are designed to prevent exacerbation of, or to allow recuperation from, the injury or illness, rehabilitate employees more effectively, reintegrate injured or ill workers into the workplace more rapidly, limit workers' compensation costs, and retain productive workers. In addition, many employees are eager to accept restricted work when it is available and prefer returning to work to recuperating at home.

The final rule's requirements in paragraph 1904.10(b)(4) of the final rule state:

(4) How do I record a work-related injury or illness that involves restricted work or job transfer?

When an injury or illness involves restricted work or job transfer but does not involve death or days away from work, you must record the injury or illness on the OSHA 300 Log by placing a check mark in the space for job transfer or restricted work and entering the number of restricted or transferred days in the restricted work column.

(i) How do I decide if the injury or illness resulted in restricted work?

Restricted work occurs when, as the result of a work-related injury or illness:

(A) You keep the employee from performing one or more of the routine functions of his or her job, or from working the full workday that he or she would otherwise have been scheduled to work; or

(B) A physician or other licensed health care professional recommends that the employee not perform one or more of the routine functions of his or her job, or not work the full workday that he or she would otherwise have been scheduled to work.

(ii) What is meant by "routine functions"?

For recordkeeping purposes, an employee's routine functions are those work activities the employee regularly performs at least once per week.

(iii) Do I have to record restricted work or job transfer if it applies only to the day on which the injury occurred or the illness began?

No. You do not have to record restricted work or job transfers if you, or the physician or other licensed health care professional, impose the restriction or transfer only for the day on which the injury occurred or the illness began.

(iv) If you or a physician or other licensed health care professional recommends a work restriction, is the injury or illness automatically recordable as a "restricted work" case?

No. A recommended work restriction is recordable only if it affects one or more of the employee's routine job functions. To determine whether this is the case, you must evaluate the restriction in light of the routine functions of the injured or ill employee's job. If the restriction from you or the physician or other licensed health care professional keeps the employee from performing one or more of his or her routine job functions, or from working the full workday the injured or ill employee would otherwise have worked, the employee's work has been restricted and you must record the case.

(v) How do I record a case where the worker works only for a partial work shift because of a work-related injury or illness?

A partial day of work is recorded as a day of job transfer or restriction for recordkeeping purposes, except for the day on which the injury occurred or the illness began.

(vi) If the injured or ill worker produces fewer goods or services than he or she would have produced prior to the injury or illness but otherwise performs all of the activities of his or her work, is the case considered a restricted work case?

No. The case is considered restricted work only if the worker does not perform all of the routine functions of his or her job or does not work the full shift that he or she would otherwise have worked.

(vii) How do I handle vague restrictions from a physician or other licensed health care professional, such as that the employee engage only in "light duty" or "take it easy for a week"?

If you are not clear about a physician or other licensed health care professional's recommendation, you may ask that person whether the employee can perform all of his or her routine job functions and work all of his or her normally assigned work shift. If the answer to both of these questions is "Yes," then the case does not involve a work restriction and does not have to be recorded as such. If the answer to one or both of these questions is "No," the case involves restricted work and must be recorded as a restricted work case. If you are unable to obtain this additional information from the physician or other licensed health care professional who recommended the restriction, record the injury or illness as a case involving job transfer or restricted work.

(viii) What do I do if a physician or other licensed health care professional recommends a job restriction meeting OSHA's definition but the employee does all of his or her routine job functions anyway?

You must record the injury or illness on the OSHA 300 Log as a restricted work case. If a physician or other licensed health care professional recommends a job restriction, you should ensure that the employee complies with that restriction. If you receive recommendations from two or more physicians or other licensed health care providers, you may make a decision as to which recommendation is the most authoritative, and record the case based upon that recommendation.

The concept of restricted work activity in the final rule falls somewhere between the commenters' broadest and narrowest definitions of the work activities that should be considered in determining whether a particular case involves work restriction. The final rule's concept of restricted work is based both on the type of work activities the injured or ill worker is able to perform and the length of time the employee is able to perform these activities. The term "routine functions of the job" in paragraphs 1904.7(b)(4)(i) and (b)(4)(ii) clarifies that OSHA considers an employee who is unable, because of a work-related injury or illness, to perform the job activities he or she usually performs to be restricted in the work he or she may perform. Use of the term "routine functions of the job" should eliminate the concern of some commenters who read the proposed definition as meaning that an employee had to be able to perform every possible work activity, including those that are highly unusual or performed only very rarely, in order for the employer to avoid recording the case as a restricted work case (see, e.g., Exs. 15: 80, 247). In other words, OSHA agrees that it makes little sense to consider an employee who is prevented by an injury or illness from performing a particular job function he or she never or rarely performed to be restricted (see, e.g., Exs. 15: 80, 247). For example, OSHA finds that, for the purposes of recordkeeping, an activity that is performed only once per month is not performed "regularly." This approach is consistent with OSHA interpretations under the former rule. Limiting the definition to "essential functions," the ADA term recommended by several commenters (see, e.g., Exs. 15: 127, 136, 137, 141, 224, 266, 278, 431), would be inappropriate, because OSHA needs information on all restricted work cases, not just those that interfere with the essential functions of the job (29 U.S.C. 657(c)(2)).

On the other hand, OSHA agrees with those commenters who argued that the proposed definition, to limit the definition of restricted activity to the specific functions or tasks the employee was engaged in on the day of injury or onset of illness would be unsatisfactory, because doing so could fail to capture activities that an employee regularly performs (see, e.g., Exs. 20; 15: 17, 129, 380, 418). In the final rule, OSHA has decided that defining restricted work as work that an employee would regularly have performed at least once per week is appropriate, i.e., OSHA believes that the range of activities captured by this interval of time will generally reflect the range of an employee's usual work activities. Activities performed less frequently than once per week reflect more uncommon work activities that are not considered routine duties for the purposes of this rule. However, the final rule does not rely on the duties the employee actually performed during the week when he or she was injured or became ill. Thus, even if an employee did not perform the activity within the last week, but usually performs the activity once a week, the activity will be included. OSHA believes that this change in definition will foster greater acceptance of the concept of restricted work among employers and employees because of its common sense approach.

Use of the term "partial work shift" in paragraph 1904.7(b)(4)(v) covers restrictions on the amount of time an employee is permitted to work because of the injury or illness. This interpretation of restricted work was not generally disputed by commenters, although some argued that the restriction on the hours worked should last for a specific number of days before the case becomes recordable as a restricted work case (see, e.g., Exs. 15: 19, 44, 146, 154, 156, 198, 364, 374, 391).

The final rule's restricted work provisions also clarify that work restriction must be imposed by the employer or be recommended by a health care professional before the case is recordable. Only the employer has the ultimate authority to restrict an employee's work, so the definition is clear that, although a health care professional may recommend the restriction, the employer makes the final determination of whether or not the health care professional's recommended restriction involves the employee's routine functions. Restricted work assignments may involve several steps: an HCP's recommendation, or employer's determination to restrict the employee's work, the employers analysis of jobs to determine whether a suitable job is available, and assignment of the employee to that job. All such restricted work cases are recordable, even if the health care professional allows some discretion in defining the type or duration of the restriction, an occurrence noted by one commenter (Ex. 15:442). However, the final rule's provisions make it clear that the employee is not the person making the determination about being placed on restricted work, as one commenter (Ex. 15: 97) feared.

A number of commenters suggested that OSHA cease to require the recording of restricted work cases entirely (see, e.g., Exs. 15: 119, 427). However, the Congress has directed that the recordkeeping system capture data on non-minor work-related injuries and illnesses and specifically on restricted work cases, both so that the national statistics on such injuries and illnesses will be complete and so that links between the causes and contributing factors to such injuries and illnesses will be identified (29 U.S.C. 651(b)). Days away and restricted work/job transfer cases together constitute two of the most important kinds of job-related injuries and illnesses, and it would be inappropriate not to record these serious cases. OSHA also cannot narrow the definition of restricted work to those cases where the employee is at work but cannot do productive work, as several commenters suggested (see, e.g., Exs. 15: 9, 45, 46, 89, 437), because the Congress clearly intended that workers whose work-related injuries and illnesses were so severe as to prevent them from doing their former work or from working for a full shift had experienced an injury or illness that was non-minor and thus worthy of being recorded. OSHA does not believe that requiring employers to record such injuries and illnesses as restricted work cases will in any way discourage the use of restricted work or return-to-work programs, and the marked shift in the number of restricted work cases reported to the BLS in the last few years bears this out. It would also not be appropriate for OSHA to require that employers only record as restricted work cases those cases in which the injured or ill worker requires medical treatment and is placed on restricted work, as some commenters suggested (see, e.g., Exs. 15: 9, 348). The OSH Act clearly requires the recording of all work-related cases that require either medical treatment or restricted work.

Under the final rule, employers are not required to record a case as a restricted work case if the restriction is imposed on the employee only for the day of the injury or onset of illness. OSHA thus agrees with a number of commenters (see, e.g., Exs. 15: 19, 44, 146, 154, 156, 198, 364, 374, 391) that restricted activity only on the day the injury occurred or the illness began does not justify recording. This represents a change in the treatment of restricted work cases from OSHA's practice under the former rule. OSHA has made this change to bring the recording of restricted work cases into line with that for days away cases: under the final rule, employers are not required to record as days away or restricted work cases those injuries and illnesses that result in time away or time on restriction or job transfer lasting only for the day of injury of illness onset.

Several commenters recommended that cases involving medical removal under the lead or cadmium standards or cases involving "voluntary" preventive actions, such as cases involving job transfer or restricted work activity, not be considered recordable under the final rule; these participants argued that requiring employers to record voluntary transfers or removals would create a disincentive for employers to take these protective actions (see, e.g., Exs. 25, 15: 69, 156, 358, 406). Under the final rule (see section 1904.9), mandated removals made in accordance with an OSHA health standard must be recorded either as days away from work or as days of restricted work activity, depending on the specific action an employer takes. Since these actions are mandated, no disincentive to record is created by this recordkeeping rule.

Some commenters, however, urged OSHA to make an exception from the recording requirements for cases where the employer voluntarily, or for preventive purposes, temporarily trans