OSHA: New Injury Reporting Requirement Creates Opportunities to Work with Employers

Published March 23, 2016

OSHA credits the prompt reporting of worker injuries under its year-old reporting requirement with creating opportunities for the agency to work with employers that OSHA wouldn’t have had contact with otherwise. Employers notified OSHA of more than 10,000 severe work-related injuries during the first year of the new requirement, which went into effect on Jan. 1, 2015. The rule, which expanded the list of severe work-related injuries that all covered employers must report to OSHA, requires employers to notify the agency when an employee is killed on the job or suffers a work-related hospitalization, amputation, or loss of an eye. Under the new rule, employers must notify OSHA of work-related fatalities within eight hours and are required to report work-related hospitalizations, amputations, or losses of an eye within 24 hours.

OSHA responded to approximately one-third of all injury reports, and 58 percent of amputation reports, with an inspection by a compliance officer, according to a new report authored by Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA David Michaels, PhD, MPH.

“In most cases, OSHA would never have learned about the hazards had it not been for the severe injury report,” Michaels writes. “These inspections also opened a door to some emerging and fast-changing industries that have had relatively few OSHA inspections, such as suppliers to oil and gas operations.”

The agency responded to more than 60 percent of the injuries reported in 2015 with a “rapid response investigation,” in which OSHA asks employers to analyze and identify the causes of an incident and propose abatements to prevent future injuries. In rapid response investigations, employers work with OSHA area office staff either in person or by phone and e-mail, a process the agency says is “extremely effective in abating hazards while also using far fewer OSHA resources than are required for on-site inspections.”

In order to improve the reporting program’s effectiveness, OSHA is refining guidance about when a rapid response investigation is appropriate and when an inspection should be called.

Michaels’ report indicates that the majority of injury reports filed in 2015 were from large employers, leading OSHA to believe that many small and mid-sized employers may not know about their reporting obligations. Moving into the second year of the program, the agency will also work to ensure that all employers are aware of the new requirements.

For more information, see OSHA’s press release. The full report, “Year One of OSHA’s Severe Injury Reporting Program: An Impact Evaluation,” is available on the agency’s website (PDF).