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A recent federal government report has urged the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to take steps to ensure that employers report fatalities and injured worker hospitalizations.

Many employers may not be aware, but in 2015 OSHA amended its severe-injury reporting rule to require that employers report the inpatient hospitalization of a single injured employee. Prior to the new rule, they only had to report to OSHA if three or more workers were hospitalized.

Other parts of the rule were left unchanged, including:

  • The requirement that employers report to OSHA workplace fatalities within eight hours.
  • The requirement that employers report any amputations or the loss of an eye within 24 hours.

Amputations are defined by OSHA as: “… the traumatic loss of all or part of a limb or other external body part. This would include fingertip amputations with or without bone loss; medical amputations resulting from irreparable damage; and amputations of body parts that have since been reattached.”

Inpatient hospitalization is defined as: “A formal admission to the in-patient service of a hospital or clinic for care or treatment. Treatment in an emergency room only is not reportable.”

Between January 2015 (when the new rule took effect) and April 2017, employers reported 23,282 severe injuries to OSHA in addition to 4,185 workplace fatalities, according to the report by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector General.

OSHA shortcomings

But the report found that OSHA had no assurances that employers reported hospitalizations, amputations and losses of an eye – and that only about half of those injuries were reported.

It also found that the agency was not consistent in citing employers that failed to make the reports in a timely manner.

Overall, the report found that OSHA had not been consistent in monitoring employers that it had authorized to conduct their own investigations into what had caused the incidents.

The report had sampled 100 severe injuries and found that OSHA had made inspections in only 37 of the cases and allowed employers to investigate in 63 of the cases.  But in 50 of the 63 cases that employers were supposed to investigate, the report found that OSHA failed to document its decision to allow employers to perform an investigation.

In about 87% of employer investigations, OSHA lacked justification for its decisions to allow employers to perform an investigation or closed investigations without sufficient evidence that the employers had abated the hazards that caused the accident, according to the report.

Employer takeaway

Safety specialists predict that the report could spur OSHA to take a tougher stance and improve its policing.

The report recommendeds that OSHA develop guidelines and train its staff on how to detect non-reporting of these incidents, and issue citations for late reporting or failure to report.

As an employer, you should be diligent about always following OSHA regulations, and now in particular, by following the rules on reporting serious injuries or fatalities.

If you do have a serious injury as defined above, here’s what you need to know:

To make a report:

  • Call the nearest OSHA office;
  • Call the OSHA 24-hour hotline at 800-321-6742; or
  • Report online, at www.osha.gov/pls/ser/serform.html.

Be prepared to supply:

  • The name of your business;
  • Names of employees affected;
  • Location and time of the incident;
  • Brief description of the incident;
  • Contact person and phone number.