Alternate OSHA DART Rate Calculation Formula for Small Businesses

We’ve come across a very interesting Interpretation letter published by OSHA, regarding the unfair impact to small companies of using standard injury rate calculations. Traditionally, DART, as well as any other type of OSHA incident rates, are based on a single year’s sum of incidents, multiplied by 200,000 and then divided by the total number of hours, to yield a rate representational of 100 full time employees.

For companies with less than 100 employees, having a workplace accident that causes recordable injury to two, three, or more employees can spike the DART rate dramatically, resulting in additional costs, dropped coverage, or contract disqualifications.

OSHA received a letter from Big Sky Industrial pointing out that this formula imposes a bias against smaller employers, and asking if there might be “a different benchmark for smaller companies” that would be more fair.   In typical “Official Interpretation” fashion, OSHA keeps its language as neutral as possible and is careful not to redefine any statutes, standards or regulations.  But with the stated purpose of publishing these letters to indicate how OSHA requirements “apply to particular circumstances,” they appear to have given their blessing to small businesses to use a three year aggregate of incidents to maintain a more stable incident rate.

Here’s an example of how it works.  Let’s say a company with 30 full time employees (62,400 hours annually) has 1 recordable injury in 2015, 0 in 2016, and 4 in 2017.  Using the traditional calculation, they would go into 2018 with an whopping 12.82% incident rate.  But applying the three year aggregated formula:

2015 + 2016 + 2017 = 5 injuries x 200,000, divided by 187,200 hours  = 5.34%

Using this formula will smooth out the impact of injury spikes over a longer period of time.  Even if the company achieves an injury-free 2018, they must continue to aggregate the previous two years of data, so at the end of 2018:

2016 + 2017 + 2018 = 4 injuries x 200,000, divided by 187,200 hours = 4.27%

If your company is small, take a look at how this aggregated method can help represent a more realistic measurement of your company’s safety indicators.  Here again is the link to the original OSHA interpretation.   And, as always, never forget the importance of adding training and other proactive safety controls to reduce risk and enhance your overall safety management posture.

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