Under revisions to its reporting rule that went into effect January 1, 2015, OSHA anticipates receiving 25,000 injury reports in 2015, and says it expects to learn as it goes how to respond to them.
“This is new to us,” OSHA administrator Dr. David Michaels reportedly told construction safety experts on December 4. “What we do Jan. 1 won't be the same as what we do May 1 or Jan. 1 next year. We'll learn as we go.”
The new requirements mandate that when an employee receives in-patient treatment in a hospital for an occupational injury, OSHA must be notified within 24 hours of the incident leading to the hospitalization. In addition, employers also must report an amputation or loss of an eye within 24 hours.
Under the old rule, the reporting requirement was triggered by hospitalization of at least three workers. Additionally, there was no notification requirement for amputations or eye injuries. The requirement that an on-the-job fatality be reported within eight hours of a death, if the death occurred within 30 days of the incident, remains unchanged. State plans have until January 1, 2016, to begin enforcing their injury reporting requirements.
Employers may phone in their reports or file them online. The agency has three response options: send inspectors, make a call or mail a letter. “It will establish a new relationship between OSHA and many employers who previously didn't have contact with OSHA,”
Michaels said, as quoted by Bloomberg BNA. “Our objective is to help them.”
Michaels told an advisory panel in December the new requirements would help OSHA spot problems before someone is killed. “If a worker is injured to the point of being hospitalized or loses a piece of their body, we know that is something going on at that workplace that needs some intervention,” the Assistant Secretary said. “It’s telling us not only are there serious hazards at the workplace, but that they’ve already hurt someone.”
The majority of the injury and hospitalization reports would not result in an inspection due to a lack of agency staff. Instead, the intervention will be a conversation in which OSHA will seek to know how the employer plans to identify the cause of the accident and prevent a recurrence, Michaels said.
The final rule is similar to the proposal the agency issued in 2011. However, a key difference is OSHA’s decision in the final rule to post the information it receives on the agency’s website, a move criticized by the regulated community because the absence of that provision in the proposed rule meant the public could not comment on it.
In addition, critics contend the requirements are vague. Marc Freedman of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce wondered if an employee should report when a worker loses sight in an eye, but does not lose the eye. Others have questioned OSHA's decision to change the definition of amputation. The proposed rule defined 3 amputation as involving bone loss, while the final rule broadened the definition to include amputations without bone loss, such as the loss of a fingertip.
The rule also revises how OSHA classifies industries to determine which are considered low hazard. The agency is switching to the North American Industry Classification System, a move taken in response to a Government Accountability Office report and, OSHA officials said, to align the agency with most other federal agencies.
Industries that must start keeping records include automobile dealers, bakeries, liquor stores, museums and family services organizations, such as child and youth services, and services for the elderly and people with disabilities. Industries that will become partially exempt from keeping records include gasoline stations, newspaper and book publishers, wireless telecommunications carriers, and electronic appliance stores.