The rules for workers' comp records retention depends on the state in which your business operates. Except for federal employees, each state manages its own no-fault workers' compensation program. The nature of an employee's injury can also affect how long you must keep these records. First-aid or medical-only cases usually can be closed and records archived sooner than in indemnity cases, which sometimes takes years before the case closes or settles. In some states, even after a workers' comp case has closed, it can be reopened.
Workers' compensation injuries fall under the auspices of two organizations: the state's workers' comp division and the U.S. Occupational and Safety Health Administration. The federal government's watchdog for safety at work, OSHA requires regular reporting of any on-the-job injuries on a form called the OSHA 301 Incident Report, summarized on the OSHA 300 log. Employers must save these records, the OSHA annual summary and a privacy case list -- if you have one -- for five years following the end of the calendar year in which the records originated. But employers must keep medical records for employees exposed to toxic substances or blood-borne pathogens for up to 30 years after the employee's termination date.
FMLA and ADA
Because workers' compensation cases often intermingle under the Family and Medical Leave Act and Americans with Disabilities Act, these agency's requirements for record retention also can affect workers' compensation records. Keep FMLA records related to workers' comp injuries for up to three years and ADA records for up to one year for employers with 20 or more employees. Only companies that have 50 or more employees at one location, or a combined total of that between multiple offices within 100 miles of each other, fall under the guidelines of FMLA.
Each state has different requirements for workers' compensation record retention. In Wisconsin, for example, workers' comp records must be kept for 30 years after the case has closed. Under Arizona law, the Industrial Commission of Arizona Claims Divisions maintains copies of all workers' comp claims as the "file of record," but Arizona also requires employers to follow regulations under OSHA for employee medical records. Arizona businesses must also make available workers' comp records to the Commission upon request. The Industrial Commission of Arizona has kept copies of all workers' compensation claims filed since 1925.
When No Law Exists
Some states may not set a definite period for record-keeping practices of workers' comp claims. If such is the case in your state, the HR Specialist website recommends that you keep employee accident reports and settlements for seven years. But on the insurance side of things, they recommend that you keep insurance accident claims for up to 11 years, which includes records from your workers' compensation insurance carrier, and actual workers' compensation claim records for up to 10 years.
- OSHA.gov: Regulation -- Section 1904.33 -- Subpart D - Other OSHA Injury and Illness Recordkeeping Requirements
- Eskridge Law: Record Retention Guidelines
- State of Wisconsin Public Record Board: Workers' Compensation and Related Records
- Industrial Commission of Arizona: Workers' Compensation Insurance
- Arizona Department of State Office of the Secretary of State: Chapter 5 Industrial Commission of Arizona
- Industrial Commission of Arizona: What is Workers' Compensation and How Does It Work?
- The HR Specialist: Company Records -- What to Keep, What to Dump
- U.S. Department of Labor: Health Benefits, Retirement Standards, and Workers’ Compensation -- Family and Medical Leave
As a native Californian, artist, journalist and published author, Laurie Brenner began writing professionally in 1975. She has written for newspapers, magazines, online publications and sites. Brenner graduated from San Diego's Coleman College.