OSHA’s updated reporting and recordkeeping rule, found at 29 C.F.R. 1904, went into effect in January 2015. We summarized these new requirements on the blog, which require employers to report severe workplace injuries, including inpatient hospitalization, amputation, or loss of an eye, within 24 hours. OSHA implemented these new requirements to help it target enforcement and compliance assistance efforts and ultimately reduce serious hazards. A year after implementation, OSHA has released an Impact Evaluation to assess the effectiveness of the program and make recommendations for the future.
Year One by the Numbers
In 2015, OSHA received 10,388 reports of severe work-related injuries, or about 30 per day (coming only from the 24 states that do not operate their own OSHA-approved health and safety programs). These injuries included 7,636 hospitalizations and 2,644 amputations. The report categorizes these numbers by industry sector and by specific industry. A broad view shows that, among the approximately 20 industry sectors, reports from the manufacturing sector accounted for 26 percent of the hospitalizations and 57 percent of the amputations. A complete list of the 2015 reports by industry provides greater detail on the reporting break down.
In the report, OSHA states that the program “is guided by the principle that when employers engage with OSHA after a severe injury…they are more likely to take action to prevent future injuries.” OSHA addressed the majority of reports—62 percent of the overall reports and 69 percent of hospitalizations—with a Rapid Response Investigation (RRI). In a RRI, employers are tasked with conducting their own investigations and proposing a remedy, assisted by OSHA and National Safety Council guidelines and reviewed by the local OSHA field office. The RRI process is meant to be a collaborative, problem-solving approach that reduces the use of OSHA resources while still resulting in a safer work environment. OSHA only conducted a full inspection when deemed necessary based on the severity of the hazard condition. Amputations seem to be a priority for a full inspection—in 2015, OSHA conducted a full inspection for about one third of all reports, but about 58 percent of amputation reports.
Room for Improvement
Despite the successes highlighted in the report, the new program is not yet functioning as it should. The report suggests that, even after a reportable incident, some employers are not motivated to eliminate the hazards that caused it, and some go so far as attempting to hide the hazards from OSHA inspectors. Further, OSHA estimates that 50 percent or more of the severe work-related injuries are not being reported. OSHA believes some smaller employers may just not be aware of the new requirements, while others may not report because the cost of non-reporting is seen to be low. To the latter, OSHA offers a reminder that unadjusted penalties for failing to report an injury range from $1,000-$7,000 and will increase once the new rule regarding adjustment for inflation goes into effect. Additionally, OSHA warns that the penalty for a willful decision not to report can be as high as $70,000, as one employer has already discovered.
While OSHA believes that the reporting program was successful in accomplishing its goals in the first year, the program will continue to evolve in an effort increase its effectiveness. Chief among these changes will be guidance regarding whether a RRI or inspection is an appropriate response to a specific report and ways to make sure more small companies are aware of and participating in the program.