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OSHA makes big changes to fatality, injury reporting requirements


Department of LaborThe Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) collects data on workplace injuries and deaths and uses it to allocate its enforcement resources. In September, OSHA issued a final rule requiring more rigorous employer reporting of employee injuries and fatalities.

THE LAW: The Occupational Safety and Health Act governs workplace safety issues and is enforced by OSHA, which is part of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). Several states have their own workplace safety laws and administrating agencies, with tougher standards than the federal law’s.

WHAT’S NEW: The DOL has issued new reporting requirements for employers when employees are injured or killed on the job. The new rules go into effect on Jan. 1, 2015.

OSHA will make reporting easier by rolling out a new website that allowing employers to complete an online form. Employers may still report injuries by calling OSHA’s toll-free hotline or appearing in person at an OSHA office.

Additionally, OSHA will identify industries using the North American Industrial Classification System (NAICS) codes rather than the outdated Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) codes.

The key changes to reporting requirements are:

  • Currently, employers must report injuries resulting in inpatient hospitalization of three or more employees to OSHA within eight hours of the injury. Under the new rules, employers have 24 hours to report, but must report any work-related employee hospitalization.
  • Any amputation (including the loss of an eye) must be reported within 24 hours. Currently, there is no specific requirement to report an amputation.
  • Any motor vehicle accident occurring in a construction work zone on public streets or highways that results in a fatality, inpatient hospitalization, amputation or eye loss must be reported to OSHA within 24 hours. There is no similar current requirement.
  • If an inpatient hospitalization, amputation or eye loss occurs more than 24 hours beyond the work-related incident, the employer does not have to report it to OSHA, but must record it on OSHA injury and illness logs.
  • Should an employer not immediately learn of a reportable incident, it must report the incident to OSHA within 24 hours of learning of the incident.
  • Similarly, if the employer did not learn immediately that a reportable illness or injury was work-related, it must report fatalities to OSHA within eight hours of learning they were work-related. For hospitalizations, amputations or eye loss, the limit is 24 hours.

HOW TO COMPLY: Understanding OSHA’s definitions is key to complying with the law. For example, OSHA defines “inpatient hospitalization” as “formal admission to the in-patient service of a hospital or clinic for care or treatment.” The definition does not include “observation or diagnostic testing.”

“Amputation” is defined as a “traumatic loss of a limb or other external body part” including “a part, such as a limb or appendage, that has been severed, cut off, amputated (either completely or partially); fingertip amputations with or without bone loss; medical amputations resulting from irreparable damage; [and] amputations of body parts that have since been reattached. Amputations do not include avulsions, enucleations, deglovings, scalpings, severed ears, or broken or chipped teeth.”

Changes in covered industries

The new rules require some industries to report injuries that were previously exempt.

A partial list includes car dealers, hardware stores, market research firms, trade show organizers, liquor stores, caterers and performing arts companies.

Some industries are now partially exempt from the new rules because of their low illness and injury rates, including pension funds, collection agencies, publishers, radio stations and boat dealers, among others.

They must still report all fatalities, inpatient hospitalizations and amputations or loss of eye to OSHA.

Preparing for ramifications

Very often illness and injury reports to OSHA precipitate an OSHA inspection. OSHA inspectors will be checking on the employer’s explanation for the injury and looking for hazards.

Most likely, they will examine the employer’s OSHA 300 and 300A logs for the past three to five years to ensure they are up-to-date and complete.

Employers should first determine whether they are covered or partially exempt from the new rule.

Detailed information is available in OSHA’s final rule.

An employer’s status will determine what reporting obligations it must meet.

Train employees responsible for the reporting requirements so they know their duties in case an injury or fatality occurs. Knowing ahead of time will help employers meet the tight reporting deadlines.

Stay prepared for an OSHA inspection by addressing issues raised on any previous inspections and accessing the industry-specific standards available on the OSHA website.