For employers this year, it will not matter if they have been naughty or nice, they are all getting the same gift in their stockings – changes in OSHA reporting requirements. Effective January 1, 2015, all employers get to ring in the New Year with these changes, which are the result of OSHA rule-making activities which culminated in the September 2014 modifications to requirements for reporting work-related fatalities, injuries and illnesses.
OSHA has amended the basic requirements under 29 CFR § 1904.39 for reporting fatalities and hospitalization incidents. Under the old rule, an employer was required to report any fatality within 8 hours of the employee’s death being reported to the employer, its agents or employees. This reporting requirement extended to any death that subsequently occurred within thirty days of the work-related incident. These requirements are carried through into the new rule for fatalities.
The major changes to the new rule deal with hospitalizations and other serious injuries. Under the old rule, any in-patient hospitalizations of three or more employees arising from a work-relating incident were also required to be reported to OSHA within 8 hours of the time the incident was reported to the employer. Under the amendments, the reporting requirement for in-patient hospitalization will now apply to any incident in which one or more employees is hospitalized. The decrease in the reporting threshold from three employees to one may increase the burden on employers. However, rather than the 8-hour deadline, OSHA has extended the reporting period for hospitalizations to within 24 hours. Moreover, the new regulation give previously unavailable guidance to employers by defining in-patient hospitalization as a formal admission to the in-patient service of a hospital or clinic for care or treatment, but excluding admissions that only result in observation or diagnostic testing. This may provide some relief from the increased burden attributable to the decrease in the number of employees making a hospitalization incident reportable, in cases involving precautionary trips to the hospital.
In addition to the changes to hospitalization reporting requirement, OSHA has also added new reporting requirements for other serious injuries. Also reportable within 24 hours of the incident under the new rule are any work-related amputations or loss of an eye. Inasmuch as these types of injuries are inherently individual, they may pose no more of a burden on employers than the new one-person hospitalization reporting requirement.
Any in-patient hospitalization, amputation or loss of an eye which occurs subsequent to the work-related incident but within 30 days, must also be reported within 24 hours of its occurrence. This expands the new rule to cover injuries which manifest after time after the initial work-related incident.
Under the new rules, OSHA has expanded what must be reported to OSHA, as well as the methods available to employers for making such reports. The old rule required the report to include (1) the establishment name; (2) the location of the incident; (3) the time of the incident; (4) the number of fatalities or hospitalized employees; (5) the names of any injured employees; (6) the reporting employer’s contact person and his or her phone number; and (7) a brief description of the incident. These requirements have now been expanded under the new rule to include amputations and loss of eye incidents, and to require a specific statement of the type of reportable event (i.e., fatality, in-patient hospitalization, amputation or loss of an eye). However, OSHA has also brought its reporting methodology into the 21st century. Whereas under the old rule, reports had to be made orally by phone (including OSHA’s 800 number) or in person, OSHA now also allows electronic submission of reports using the reporting application at its website, www.OSHA.gov. Although reporting requirements themselves have expanded, this will offer employers a convenient method not previously available for reporting.
In sum, 2015 will bring new reporting requirements and methods, designed to give OSHA more access to accident data. Whether OSHA’s gift will become a shiny trinket or a lump of coal for employers remains to be seen. However, as with most OSHA regulations, an employer still has a large amount of control over what ultimately becomes reportable by implementation of safe work practices and oversight of employees. Still, employers will be wise to implement provisions for the new reporting requirements into their safety programs for 2015. Additional information on these and other OSHA amendments is available at OSHA’s website.
The Cantey Hanger family wishes everyone a happy and safe holiday season, and best wishes for the New Year.