OSHA Report Analyzes First Year of New Reporting Requirements

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In late 2014, many employers learned about the new OSHA injury and illness reporting requirements that were to go into effect as of Jan. 1, 2015. Under the new requirements, employers were required to report all work-related fatalities within 8 hours, and all in-patient hospitalizations, amputations, and losses of an eye within 24 hours of finding out about the incident. (Under the old rule, employers had the same reporting requirement for fatalities, but were only required to report in-patient hospitalizations of three or more employees.) With the reporting requirements broadened to include all in-patient hospitalizations, it was naturally expected that more work-related injuries would be reported during 2015, the first year of the new rule.

In a report released today by OSHA, entitled “Year One of OSHA’s Severe Injury Reporting Program: An Impact Evaluation,” OSHA evaluated the impact of the new injury and illness reporting requirements. As the report indicates, employers reported 10,388 severe injuries, including 7,636 hospitalizations and 2,644 amputations. In most instances, OSHA conducted a “Rapid Response Investigation,” asking employers to conduct their own incident investigations and propose remedies to prevent future injuries. In approximately a third of the reported matters, an onsite inspection was conducted by an OSHA compliance officer – in view of the fact that the described hazards warranted an inspection and appearance by an inspector. Furthermore, in approximately 58% of the reported amputations, OSHA conducted an onsite inspection.

As stated by OSHA head Dr. David Michaels (the report’s author), “In case after case, the prompt reporting of worker injuries has created opportunities for us to work with employers we wouldn’t have had contact with otherwise.” In one particular case, reports from a food processing facility revealed – during a six-week period – that one worker lost a finger, another lost a hand, and a third was hospitalized with burns and lacerations. In this and other instances, the new reporting requirements enabled OSHA to learn of recurring patterns of injuries at certain workplaces.

The report is careful to point out, however, that many severe injuries – perhaps up to 50% – are still not being reported to OSHA. Given that the majority of reports were filed by large employers, OSHA believes that many small and mid-sized employers are unaware of the new reporting requirements. Some, it is believed, are simply choosing to ignore the requirements altogether. In that regard, Dr. Michaels cautions that if OSHA learns that an employer knew about the requirements but chose not to promptly report an injury or illness, the fine can be “much higher” than the current maximum of $7,000 – for example, one employer was fined $70,000.

 


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