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Complying with OSHA’s New Injury Reporting Rule

LIUNA General President Terry O’Sullivan

“Starting in January of 2015, important changes to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) rules on reporting workplace injuries will go into effect,” says LIUNA General President Terry O’Sullivan. “The updated rule requires employers to report all work-related hospitalizations, amputations and losses of an eye to OSHA within 24 hours.” With the Bureau of Labor Statistics reporting that there were about 5,000 amputations in 2012 (about 4,700 of those being fingers or fingertips), the number of injuries reported to OSHA is about to increase significantly.

This expands the current rule, which previously only required OSHA to be notified if three or more employers were hospitalized. The new rule maintains the requirement to report work-related fatalities within eight hours. Employers in states under Federal OSHA programs are mandated to comply with this new rule starting on January 1, 2015. Employers operating in states with individual state OSHA programs should check with their plans for required implementation dates.

“Hospitalizations and amputations are sentinel events, indicating that serious hazards are likely to be present at a workplace and that an intervention is warranted to protect the other workers at the establishment,” said Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health. “OSHA will now receive crucial reports of fatalities and severe work-related injuries and illnesses that will significantly enhance the agency’s ability to target our resources to save lives and prevent further injury and illness.”

Some employers are concerned that reporting these hospitalizations will increase their chances of being inspected by OSHA. However, Michaels explained that upon being notified, OSHA will first ask employers what caused the injury and how they plan on addressing the hazard to prevent future injuries. After this conversation, the agency may decide no further action is needed, recommend the employer enroll in OSHA’s free consultation program or choose to conduct an inspection. “We believe that as a result of this interaction, employers will be more likely to take the steps necessary to better protect the lives and limbs of their employees,” said Michaels. “Too often, after a fatality, when we inspect, we learn that other workers have already been injured at that establishment.”

This OSHA FactSheet explains the updated rule in more detail, including how OSHA defines amputations and what information needs to be reported.

Reporting an Incident to OSHA

Currently, employers must report incidents over the phone at OSHA’s confidential number (1-800-321-6472) or visit the closest area office during normal business hours. To help employers meet these new requirements and the timelines that come with them, OSHA is also developing an online form that employers will be able to file electronically.

It’s important to note that there is a difference between mandatory recordkeeping and the mandatory reporting of injuries. While some employers are exempt from keeping OSHA records (e.g., those with fewer than 11 employees), all employers must still report all fatalities and hospitalizations to OSHA.

The goal is that with more injuries being reported, more employers will be brought into compliance, preventing injuries and fatalities that otherwise might have occurred. For assistance with your injury and illness prevention program, call the LHSFNA’s OSH Division at 202-628-5465.

[Nick Fox]

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