OSHA now requires employers to notify the Agency of work-related fatalities within eight (8) hours, and notify OSHA of work-related inpatient hospitalizations, amputations, or losses of an eye within twenty-four (24) hours.1 The increased intake of reported injuries and fatalities has motivated OSHA to implement a triage process to determine the type of response required.
An internal OSHA memorandum explains the types of questions the Agency will ask employers as part of this process.2 Employers may have to explain what was happening at the time of the injury, such as what tool, equipment, or material was being used. They may be asked if the hazard that caused the harm to the injured employee is still in the workplace and whether that condition could harm other workers. Further, the Agency may inquire about what steps have been taken to remove the hazards and whether something like this has happened before. The answers to these questions may determine the report’s “category.”
OSHA has established three categories for reports to determine whether OSHA will conduct an onsite investigation or a “Rapid Response Investigation.” The categories are as follows:
- Category 1 includes all fatalities and reports of two or more in-patient hospitalizations, or any injury involving a worker under the age of 18. This category also includes repeat offenders, those in the Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP), and injuries that correspond with a national emphasis or local emphasis program. These fatalities or injuries will be investigated.
- Category 2 includes scenarios in which two or more of the following conditions exist: there is continued exposure to a hazard, there was a safety program failure (such as Lockout-Tagout or Process Safety Management (PSM)), the exposure was to a serious hazard, temporary workers were involved, there is a history of inspections or whistleblower complaints, or the injury involved health issues such as heat or chemical exposures. The Area Director has discretion on whether to conduct an inspection in these instances.
- Category 3 includes all other reports, and OSHA will open a Rapid Response Investigation (RRI). The RRI requires the employer to visibly post a letter from OSHA for employees and requests that the employer conduct an internal investigation and send documentation of the investigation and abatement to OSHA. This response is not legally required under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (the OSH Act), and is therefore non-mandatory; however, it is unclear whether OSHA will be more likely to conduct an inspection if an employer fails to respond. The employer only has five working days to respond, but may ask for an extension if needed.