As of January 1, 2015, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has required employers to report severe work-related injuries—such as hospitalizations, amputations or eye loss—with 24 hours of the incident. During the first full year the requirement was in effect, U.S. employers reported 10,388 severe injuries. This included 7,636 hospitalizations and 2,644 amputations.
The industry that reported the largest number of severe injuries was manufacturing, which accounted for 26 percent of hospitalizations and 57 percent of amputations. Employers in the construction industry reported 19 percent of the hospitalizations and 10 percent of the amputations. Transportation and warehousing had the third largest number of hospitalizations (11 percent), while retail trade and wholesale trade each accounted for 5 percent of the reported amputations. You can review a complete list of severe injuries reported by individual industry at www.osha.gov/injuryreport/2015_by_industry.pdf .
One of the purposes of the new reporting rule was to collect timely information on severe injuries that would enable OSHA to better enforce workplace safety standards and assist employers with compliance. In 62 percent of the severe injury cases reported last year, OSHA utilized its Rapid Response Investigation process, asking the employers involved to conduct their own incident investigations. They also provided guidance materials and requested that employers propose their own solutions to prevent such injuries from occurring in the future.
In OSHA’s official impact evaluation report , the author (assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health) writes, “We have found this process to be extremely effective in abating hazards while also using far fewer OSHA resources than are required for on-site inspections. In this way, we are able to use agency resources more efficiently and, ultimately, better protect the safety and health of workers.”
In about 33 percent of the severe injury cases (including 58 percent of those involving amputations) OSHA determined a site inspection by a compliance officer was warranted. Not only did these inspections help resolve immediate safety issues in the workplaces under inspection, but OSHA reports they often inspired larger changes in the employer’s overall safety program. In many cases, employers created incentive programs to reward their staff for taking an active role in injury prevention. In others, employers hired safety consultants to review their practices or utilized OSHA’s free on-site consultation program .
Unfortunately, OSHA believes that some employers—especially those who are small- or mid-sized—are still not reporting severe injuries as required. They hypothesize that many are not aware of the requirements, and they’re developing an outreach strategy to educate them. In some cases, they believe employers are ignoring the requirements because they believe any fine they may incur will be less than the cost of remedying safety issues. OSHA would like these employers to know that they’ve recently increased the penalty for failure to report a severe injury from $1,000 to as much as $7,000. In the event it is determined that the employer was aware of the reporting requirement but chose not to report a severe injury promptly, the fine will be even higher. According to the impact evaluation report, one such employer has already been charged with $70,000 in penalties.
If you’d like a review of your workplace safety program or further information on OSHA’s severe injury reporting requirements, we’re here to help. Give us a call today to set up an appointment for an evaluation.