In effect for just three months, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s new injury reporting rule is already having an impact, according to agency head Dr. David Michaels.

At an April 1 meeting of OSHA’s Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health (ACCSH), Michaels said the reporting rule has led to contact for the first time between the agency and some employers. He also asserted the rule is increasing employer awareness of why addressing workplace injuries is important.

Another impact of the reporting rule is that the workers’ compensation insurance industry is helping OSHA to encourage employers to report incidents. The insurance industry wants the agency to begin posting the reports online for use in developing policies that they sell to employers, Michaels said, as reported by Bloomberg BNA.

The rule, effective January 1, revised existing reporting mandates to require employers to notify OSHA within 24 hours of a worker suffering an amputation, loss of an eye, or any incident resulting in at least one worker being admitted to a hospital for in-patient care. An existing requirement to report fatalities within eight hours remained unchanged.

The Assistant Secretary told ACCSH that OSHA personnel are inspecting about 40 percent of the worker injury or fatality incidents they learn about through the new rule. In addition to the inspections, OSHA has asked a significant number of employers to examine the incidents themselves for root causes and to get back to the agency with lessons learned and their plans for corrective action, he stated.

“The idea here is we will then be able to impact a larger number of employers than we would have with simply doing inspections,” Michaels said, as quoted by the news service. “We'll see how that goes. We're very early in the process.” The root-cause investigations have raised concerns among industry attorneys, in part because of uncertainty about whether OSHA would use a company's own investigation of an incident as the trigger for a future inspection.

A fewer-than-expected number of incident reports have come from the construction industry, according to Michaels, a reflection, he theorized, of a downturn in construction work due to the harsh winter.

“But compared to other industries, the construction industry may not be as aware of these rules, so we hope we get that information out,” he added.