United States: OSHA Expands Scope Of Severe Injury Reporting Rule; Employers Must Now Notify OSHA Of Fatalities, All In-Patient Hospitalizations, Amputations And Eye Loss

Last Updated: September 23 2014
Article by Mark S. Dreux and Matt Thorne

On September 11, 2014, OSHA announced new requirements for the severe injury reporting rule. Employers will now be required to notify OSHA of all work-related in-patient hospitalizations, amputations and eye loss within 24 hours of their occurrence. Employers must still report work-related fatalities within 8 hours. The final rule becomes effective on January 1, 2015. This change will certainly lead to more inspections and permit OSHA (and the public) greater access to employers' injury and illness data.

Under the previous reporting rule, employers were required to notify OSHA of any employee fatality or in-patient hospitalization of three or more employees within 8 hours of the work-related incident. Under the new rule, employers will still be required to report all employee fatalities within 8 hours as before. But now employers will also have to report the in-patient hospitalization of one or more employees, amputations, and eye loss within 24 hours of any  work-related incident.   

The new rule defines "in-patient hospitalization" as "a formal admission to the in-patient service of a hospital or clinic for care or treatment;" this excludes hospitalizations that involve only observation or diagnostic testing.

"Amputations" are defined as "the 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; amputations of body parts that have since been reattached." The rule exempts "avulsions, enucleations, deglovings, scalpings, severed ears, or broken or chipped teeth."

The new rule will require employers to submit the following information for each reportable incident: the employer, the location and time of the incident, the type of reportable incident, the number of employees involved, the names of injured employees, the contact information of the employer, and a brief description of the incident. Employers must make this report to OSHA in one of the following three ways: by contacting the nearest OSHA Area Office during normal office hours, using OSHA's toll-free central telephone number (1-800-321-OSHA), or by submitting the report electronically on OSHA's website – www.osha.gov. OSHA has indicated it is developing a fatality/injury/illness reporting application that will be available for employers to electronically submit their reports.

OSHA's new reporting rule will undoubtedly lead to more inspections, as is the Agency's intent. The new rule significantly expands the scope of reportable events to all in-patient hospitalizations, amputations and eye loss. According to the final rule, immediate knowledge of these events will ensure OSHA can conduct "a prompt investigation of the incident leading to the serious occupational injury and illness event." Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA, Dr. David Michaels reiterated the Agency's intent behind the new rule: "[h]ospitalizations 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." Therefore, when a reportable event occurs, employers should take the necessary measures to prepare for a probable OSHA inspection.

Like its proposed rule on electronic reporting of injury and illness data, OSHA intends to make employers' reportable events publicly available. According to the final rule, "[the reportable event data] will also help OSHA establish a comprehensive database that the Agency, researchers, and the public can use to identify hazards related to reportable events and to identify industries and processes where these hazards are prevalent." The online fatality/injury/illness reporting application OSHA is developing will help facilitate this process. 

This raises the same concerns as we highlighted when discussing OSHA's proposed rule on electronic reporting of injury and illness data. Making the limited amount of reported information available without additional context or mitigating circumstances may unfairly portray the work-related incident. This will permit the media, competitors, plaintiffs' lawyers, and unions to distort and misrepresent the injury and illness data for their own purposes.

If a reportable incident occurs, employers should carefully prepare their incident report, anticipate greater public scrutiny and prepare for a likely OSHA inspection.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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