IR # 97-28
Tuesday, May 13, 1997

Rick Rice
Troy Swauger
(415) 972-8835

Obayashi OSHA Recordkeeping Citation

SAN FRANCISCO -- The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) on Tuesday, May 13, cited Obayashi Corporation, one of the contractors on the Los Angeles Metro Rail construction project, for failure to properly record the outcome of workers' injuries. The citation alleges that Obayashi's safety managers falsely recorded on its OSHA Log of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses (Log 200) that 1996 injuries to two of its employees resulted in "days of restricted work activity" when the injuries actually resulted in 22 "lost workdays" in one case and two lost workdays in the other case.

The Cal/OSHA citation alleges that Obayashi violated Section 14301(b) of Title 8 of the California Code of Regulations. Section 14301 requires employers to keep an accurate "log" of the number, type, extent and outcome of each of the injuries and illnesses which its employees suffer as a result of work activities. The OSHA log consists of three parts: a descriptive section which identifies the employees and briefly describes the nature of the injury or illness and the part of the body affected; a section covering the extent of the injuries recorded, including whether the injury was severe enough to result in lost workdays, or in days of restricted work activity (so-called "limited" or "light" duty) or in no lost workdays or days of restricted work activity; and a section on the type and extent of the illnesses.

The citation for Obayashi arose from a routine Cal/OSHA inspection on November 19, 1996 of a Metro Rail construction site, located at 11206 Weddington, North Hollywood, and under the control of Obayashi. At the Opening Conference with the employer, Cal/OSHA inspectors reviewed Obayashi's log of occupational injuries and illnesses (also called the "OSHA Log 200") at that site for the calendar years 1995 and 1996.

Among the entries on the log noted by Cal/OSHA were several which indicated that serious workplace injuries, such as severe lacerations, fractured bones and severe burns had occurred. In Cal/OSHA's experience such injuries are usually associated with "lost workdays," or days when workers do not come to work because they are at home or in the hospital recuperating from their injury. Instead, the Obayashi logs recorded that serious worker injuries resulted in no lost workdays, but only in "days of restricted work activity," or days when the worker comes to work but is given tasks other than their normal job duties.

To determine the accuracy of the logs' entries concerning the most serious worker injuries, Cal/OSHA inspectors requested supplemental documentation from Obayashi about the extent and outcome of the injuries. Obayashi refused Cal/OSHA access to any additional records beyond the OSHA Log 200. Cal/OSHA served a subpoena duces tecum to obtain access to the necessary information to conduct a thorough review of the accuracy of the Obayashi logs.

The additional information which Cal/OSHA sought included copies of the Employer's First Report of Injury (Form 5020), the Doctor's First Report of Injury (Form 5021), and individual worker medical and healthcare records. These supplemental records contain specific information about the individual workers' injury.

After receiving and reviewing the supplemental documentation, Cal/OSHA inspectors (joined by physician and nurse consultants from the Cal/OSHA Medical Unit) interviewed several of the Obayashi employees who sustained the most serious injuries to determine the extent and outcome of their workplace injuries and whether the logs accurately recorded the extent and outcome of their injuries.

The investigation determined that at least two Obayashi employees sustained serious workplace injuries resulting in a significant number of lost workdays. The entry made by Obayashi on its OSHA Log 200, however, was incorrect in that the outcome of two employees injuries was recorded as "days of restricted work activity." No lost workdays were recorded on the log for either of these two cases.

Cal/OSHA classified Obayashi's failure to properly record the outcome of their two workers' injuries as "willful" because interviews with Obayashi safety management officials revealed that the recordkeeping errors in these two cases were made deliberately. The willful citation carries a $5000 penalty. Cal/OSHA Deputy Chief for Enforcement Mark Carleson said that "accurate recordkeeping by employers of the outcome of their workers' injuries is the key to determining if the workplace is safe or whether hazards exist which need to be controlled.

"Inaccurate recording of the outcome of workplace injuries as in these Obayashi cases can give a false picture of how good a job Metro Rail employers are doing at providing safe workplaces for their employees," Carleson said.

The category of "lost workdays" is used by Cal/OSHA, workers' compensation insurers and contractors as an indicator of the severity of workplace injuries. Carleson said, "Misrepresenting injury outcomes by recording them as days of restricted work activity instead of as lost workdays gives a false impression of the safety of a particular workplace and can mislead insurers and Cal/OSHA into believing that a particular workplace is safer than it is."

Cal/OSHA will continue to review the OSHA Logs of Obayashi and other Los Angeles Metro Rail contractors to determine if these two incidents represent isolated cases of misrecording or whether they represent a pattern of practice by MTA contractors. As a part of the Obayashi investigation, Cal/OSHA's Bureau of Investigations will review the recordkeeping information obtained to determine if Obayashi's recordkeeping practices constitutes a criminal violation of any California law pertaining to proper recording and reporting of occupational injuries and illnesses.