In a move that will drastically increase the number of incidents employers must report, the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently announced a new rule that changes the requirements regarding the types of injuries and incidents that must be reported to the agency. The rule, which goes into effect on January 1, 2015, also updates the list of employers partially exempt from OSHA's record-keeping requirements.

Under the old rule, employers were required to notify OSHA of any workplace fatality or when three or more employees were hospitalized because of an illness or injury. Beginning January 1, 2015, employers must notify OSHA whenever a single employee (i) is hospitalized as a result of a workplace injury or illness, (ii) suffers an amputation or (iii) loses an eye. The obligation to report a workplace fatality remains unchanged. The three-employee threshold for hospitalizations is no more. The new rule also imposes specific timeliness requirements for incident reporting: work-related fatalities must be reported within eight hours (just as under the old rule), while hospitalizations, amputations, or the loss of an eye must be reported within 24 hours. The new reporting requirements apply to all employers, including those which are currently exempt from maintaining injury and illness logs.

OSHA is developing a web portal for employers to electronically report incidents in addition to the traditional reporting options currently available to employers—contacting the OSHA Area Office nearest in vicinity to the site of the accident or calling OSHA's toll-free number. These reports of illness or injury—regardless of the method used—will be made public on OSHA's website where they can be viewed by employees, union organizers and/or competing companies.

OSHA has also revised the list of industries that are exempt from the injury and illness record-keeping requirements. Where the regulations previously used the Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) system to categorize industries, OSHA will now look to the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) to determine whether employers in a certain industry are covered. The new list is based on updated injury and illness data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Employers with ten or fewer employees remain exempt from the requirement to keep records of workplace injuries and illnesses.

Employers that are unsure whether they are required to maintain records of workplace injuries and illnesses should immediately determine if their industry is covered so that they are ready to begin tracking recordable incidents effective January 1, 2015. Employers should also ensure that the responsible operations and employee health and safety professionals are aware of and understand the new reporting obligations.