Six Reasons to Keep Recordables Low and How Occupational Health Can Help

Andrew Berry

Every employer wants to keep recordables as low as possible; any work-related injury is one too many and workers’ compensation claims can add up quickly. Work-related injuries cost $171 billion in 2019, according to the National Safety Council, and studies have shown that injuries, including recordables, can increase indirect costs, like group health insurance expenditures1,2. Some employers might feel overwhelmed by the scope of requirements and everything that goes into a safe workplace. That’s where an occupational health provider like Concentra® can help. Occupational health providers can set employers on the right course for lower recordables and know how to treat work-related injuries and illnesses when they do occur. This article provides six reasons to keep recordables low and how occupational health can help.

OSHA recordables’ basics

An “OSHA recordable” is a work-related injury or illness that must be reported to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). If an employer wants a medical opinion regarding injury causation, an occupational health clinician can provide one.

An OSHA recordable results from an injury that involves any of the following3:

  • Medical treatment beyond first aid
  • Loss of consciousness
  • One or more days away from work following the date of the incident
  • Restricted work or transfer to another job
  • Any significant injury or illness diagnosed by a physician or other licensed health care professional
  • Cancers and chronic irreversible diseases
  • Fractured bones and punctured eardrums
  • Any work-related fatality

OSHA uses a specific definition for the term “first aid.”4 Concentra clinicians and other occupational health providers are trained to know the difference between first aid and treatment that exceeds first aid. The impact for employers is this: by sending your employees to Concentra or another occupational health provider, you are more likely to avoid the injury unnecessarily becoming an OSHA recordable based on the treatment provided when only first aid was needed. The 14 treatments that are considered first aid are:

  • Using of a non-prescription drug at non-prescription strength
  • Injecting Tetanus immunizations
  • Cleaning, flushing, or soaking wounds on the surface of the skin
  • Applying a wound covering, such as an adhesive bandage, gauze pad, or butterfly bandage
  • Applying heat or cold
  • Bracing injuries with non-rigid means of support, such as elastic bandages, wraps, or non-rigid back belts
  • Using a temporary immobilization device (usually for transport to a hospital)
  • Drilling a fingernail or toenail to drain and relieve pressure
  • Draining fluid from a blister
  • Using an eye patch
  • Removing a foreign body from an eye without using instruments (a swab or irrigation may be used)
  • Removing splinters or foreign materials from other parts of the body using irrigation, tweezers, or swabs
  • Attaching finger guards and giving first aid massage
  • Directing patient to drink fluids for relief of heat stress

In cases involving musculoskeletal injuries, there are four actions that are considered first aid (not medical treatment) and, thus, are not OSHA recordable. These include:

  • Applying flexible tape
  • Physical or occupational therapy evaluation
  • Instrument-assisted soft-tissue mobilization
  • Providing exercises to help prevent injury

Primary care and urgent care clinicians – while well-meaning in the care they provide – do not have the equivalent experience of occupational health clinicians in knowing and understanding OSHA regulations and sensitivities. With this added knowledge, occupational health clinicians do their best to avoid unnecessary OSHA recordability.

OSHA explains how to submit recordables electronically and its recordkeeping requirements during the pandemic on its web page, “OSHA Injury and Illness Recordkeeping and Reporting Requirements.” One phrase you are likely to see on OSHA’s web pages is “Total Recordable Incident Rate (TRIR),” which is a standardized safety calculation to analyze and better understand employer safety performance within and across different industries. OSHA is able to provide an explanation of what TRIR means and how it’s calculated. OSHA takes employer size into consideration in TRIR calculations, using data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Reasons to keep recordables low

A high OSHA recordables rate can impact business costs, reputation, and more. Reasons to keep recordables low include: 

  1. Avoid increased OSHA oversight and potential fines/penalties
    A high recordables rate can bring increased scrutiny from OSHA. This could mean more frequent and more extensive OSHA inspections. In early 2021, OSHA announced higher fines for several categories of violations. Employers could pay more than $13,000 per violation and more than $130,000 for repeat violations5.

  2. Contain workers’ compensation and other costs
    In addition to medical costs and indemnity for lost wages, employers must recognize the ripple effect an injury can have. Indirect costs also have a major impact on an employer’s bottom line. They can include: 6

    • Training replacement employees
    • Accident investigation and implementation of corrective measures
    • Lost productivity
    • Repairs of damaged equipment and property
    • Costs associated with lower employee morale and absenteeism

  3. Promote business health
    Employers can use their recordables rate to gain valuable insight into potential gaps or flaws in their safety programs. Recordables provide an overview of past performance7. An Associated Builders and Contractors report found that when top level management is involved in safety, recordables drop by an average of 59 percent8.

  4. Optimize your company’s financial profile for insurance and investment purposes
    Insurance companies may consider a company’s recordable injuries when setting workers’ compensation rates, and recordables could translate into higher premiums. In the same lens, investors may consider safety records when determining funding for future projects.

  5. Convey a positive profile with vendors
    Vendors may prefer to work with employers that keep injuries low. This is especially important if an employer will be supervising vendor employees. Employers with a high rate of recordables stand to miss out on important vendor relationships. Being conscientious about safety can instill confidence in the vendors needed to support business productivity.

  6. Boost employee morale and hold down turnover
    Employees take notice when they see injuries on the rise and may choose to switch employers if they feel that their safety could be in jeopardy. Prospective employees, especially those with experience, may ask about an employer’s injury profile before accepting a position. Additionally, recordables can give an employer a bad reputation that expands beyond employees to customers. A low recordable injury rate is just good public relations.

Occupational health and recordables

When partnering with an occupational health provider, choosing a provider that has demonstrated a strong emphasis on injury prevention can help to keep recordables low from the start of every workday. Occupational health clinicians can instruct employees in techniques to prevent injuries. Concentra offers a comprehensive suite of injury prevention and wellness services, including:

  • Pre-employment functional testing
  • Workplace stretching and exercise programs
  • Employee education
  • Ergonomics programs

Concentra physical therapists and certified athletic trainers will work with employees to improve with overall wellness and workplace health. Injury prevention is a win-win for employers and employees. When employees are properly trained, they’re less likely to be involved in a recordable incident. And when productivity and morale go up with fewer injuries and safe working conditions, employees are happier and healthier.

Contact Concentra and start down the path to lower recordables today.

1 “Work Injury Costs,” National Safety Council, 2019. 
2 Williams, J.A.R. et al. Impact of Occupational Injuries on Nonworkers’ Compensation Medical Costs of Patient-Care Workers. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. 2017; 59 (6): 119-24
3 “General Recording Criteria,” OSHA, 2001.
4 “Understanding and Applying the Definition of an OSHA Recordable,” by Michelle Hopkins. Concentra. October 7, 2019. 
5 “OSHA: Recordkeeping Reminder, Higher Penalties And 2021 Predictions,” by John Ho. JD Supra. January 15, 2021. 
6 “Business Case for Safety and Health” OSHA, n.d.
7 “What’s the difference between TRIF, TRIR and DART and why do they matter?,” Levitt-Safety, April 29, 2019. 
8 “TRIR, DART and EMR: What These Safety Metrics Mean and Why They're Important,” United Rentals, May25, 2021.