The basic requirement at Section 1904.6(a) states that the employer must consider an injury or illness a new case to be evaluated for recordability if: (1) the employee has not previously experienced a recorded injury or illness of the same type that affects the same part of the body, or (2) the employee previously experienced a recorded injury or illness of the same type that affected the same part of the body but had recovered completely (all signs and symptoms of the previous injury or illness had disappeared) and an event or exposure in the work environment caused the injury or illness, or its signs or symptoms, to reappear.
According to the OSHA Recordkeeping Handbook, the term "new case" tends to suggest to some that the case is totally original, when in fact new cases for OSHA recordkeeping purposes include three categories of cases; (1) totally new cases where the employee has never suffered similar signs or symptoms while in the employ of that employer, (2) cases where the employee has a preexisting condition that is significantly aggravated by activities at work and the significant aggravation reaches the level requiring recordation, and (3) previously recorded conditions that have healed (all symptoms and signs have resolved) and then have subsequently been triggered by events or exposures at work (C.F.R. § 1904.6).
Both new injuries and recurrences must be evaluated for their work-relatedness and then for whether they meet one or more of the recording criteria; when these criteria are met, the case must be recorded. If the case is a continuation of a previously recorded case but does not meet the "new case" criteria, the employer may have to update the OSHA 300 Log entry if the original case continues to progress, i.e., if the status of the case worsens. For example, consider a case where an employee has injured his or her back lifting a heavy object, the injury resulted in medical treatment, and the case was recorded as a case without restricted work or days away. If the injury does not heal and the employer subsequently decides to assign the worker to restricted work activity, the employer is required by the final rule to change the case classification and to track the number of days of restricted work. If the case is a previous work-related injury that did not meet the recording criteria and thus was not recorded, future developments in the case may require it to be recorded. For example, an employee may suffer an ankle sprain tripping on a step. The employee is sent to a health care professional, who does not recommend medical treatment or restrictions, so the case is not recorded at that time. If the injury does not heal, however, and a subsequent visit to a physician results in medical treatment, the case must then be recorded.
C.F.R. § 1904.6(b)(1) addresses chronic work-related cases that have already been recorded once and distinguishes between those conditions that will progress even in the absence of workplace exposure and those that are triggered by events in the workplace. There are some conditions that will progress even in the absence of further exposure, such as some occupational cancers, advanced asbestosis, tuberculosis disease, advanced byssinosis, advanced silicosis, etc. These conditions are chronic; once the disease is contracted it may never be cured or completely resolved, and therefore the case is never "closed" under the OSHA recordkeeping system, even though the signs and symptoms of the condition may alternate between remission and active disease.
The final rule provides, at C.F.R. § 1904.6(b)(1), that the employer is not required to record as a new case a previously recorded case of chronic work-related illness where the signs or symptoms have recurred or continued in the absence of exposure in the workplace. This paragraph recognizes that there are occupational illnesses that may be diagnosed at some stage of the disease and may then progress without regard to workplace events or exposures. Such diseases, in other words, will progress without further workplace exposure to the toxic substance(s) that caused the disease. Examples of such chronic work-related diseases are silicosis, tuberculosis, and asbestosis. With these conditions, the ill worker will show signs (such as a positive TB skin test, a positive chest roentgenogram, etc.) at every medical examination, and may experience symptomatic bouts as the disease progresses.