New OSHA rule heightens work-injury reporting mandates

On behalf of Gary Nelson at Law Office of Gary C. Nelson

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration issues rules affecting the workplace to ensure safe working environments. The agency recently issued a new rule that changes certain reporting mandates

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration is a federal agency referred to as OSHA within the U.S. Department of Labor tasked with assuring "safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women." Presently, there are roughly 2200 inspectors mandated to make sure employees at 8 million worksites across the United States work in safe environments.

Through the Occupational Safety and Health Act, OSHA sets rules and standards to maintain the highest level of safety in workplace environments all across the country. These rules include recordkeeping and reporting requirements employers have to abide by.

A new OSHA rule, proposed roughly 3 years ago, was recently published and changes the present OSHA reporting requirements under 29 CFR 1904 for certain work-related injuries including amputations.

The OSHA rule

The new rule was published on September 11, 2014. It stipulates that:

"Employers report to OSHA within 24 hours of any work-related incident that results in:

(a) The in-patient hospitalization of one or more employees,

(b) An employee's amputation, or

(c) An employee's loss of an eye"

The previous OSHA reporting rule

Under the previous rule, employers were only required to report a work-related incident if it resulted in an in-patient hospitalization of three or more employees or caused a work-related death. The previous rule also did not mandate any reporting from a workplace amputation or loss of an eye.

Enhancing workplace safety

David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, insists that the new mandate will increase transparency and force businesses to improve workplace safety guidelines.

"[The rule] will enable employers and workers to prevent future injuries by identifying and eliminating the most serious workplace hazards: ones that have already caused injuries to occur," he recently stated during a public conference.

The new reporting requirement is expected to increase reportable incidents by up to 170,000 per year. According to Michaels, this is a good thing. He hopes that the new mandate will identify smaller workplace hazards that can be addressed before they take lives.

The rule will take effect January of 2015 for employers under federal OSHA jurisdiction.

In 2013, there were over 4400 employees who lost their lives in a work-related injury-a number roughly equivalent to 12 deaths every single day. Hopefully continued efforts to regulate workplace environments will help reduce workplace injuries and fatalities.

Due to efforts by OSHA, safety and health professionals, unions, and workplace safety advocates, on-the-job injuries and illness have declined by 67 percent since 1970; fatalities have gone down by over 65 percent.

Keywords: Occupational Safety and Health Administration, workplace accidents, regulations, workers' compensation