Depending upon the nature of your business, it is likely subject to many different, and sometimes overlapping, federal, state and even local regulatory programs. If you are regulated by the “alphabet soup” of acronym-laden environmental laws (RCRA, CERCLA, TSCA, CWA, CAA and on and on), you are probably well aware of that fact. But what about the Occupational Safety and Health Act? Are you subject to it? Are you in compliance? What is required, and when must you report things to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)? Many who are regulated by OSHA do not know the answers to one or more of those questions.

Experience has shown that, in general, the regulated community is less aware than it should be of its obligations under the act and what, if anything, must be reported. For example, let’s say an employee loses a leg in an industrial accident. Reportable? Or, let’s say two workers are severely injured in a factory fire, and are hospitalized for several days. Reportable?

Today, the answer to both is “no.” Current OSHA injury reporting requirements1 only require that a work-related fatality or the in-patient hospitalization of three or more workers as a result of a work-related incident must be reported to OSHA. Many are surprised to learn that such serious incidents are not required to be reported. Of course, they must be recorded on the mandatory log of work-related injuries and illnesses,2 but even those logs are only provided to OSHA upon the agency’s request. For any number of reasons, you may choose to report such serious incidents to OSHA, and at times it is prudent to do so, but reporting is not required – yet.

On September 11, 2014, federal OSHA announced that it is changing the reporting requirements for severe injuries, effective January 1, 2015.3 Beginning on that date, employers must report all of the following:

  • all work-related fatalities
  • all work-related in-patient hospitalizations of one or more employees
  • all work-related amputations
  • all work-related losses of an eye

Employers must verbally report work-related fatalities within eight hours of finding out about it. For any in-patient hospitalization, amputation, or eye loss, employers must report the incident within 24 hours of learning about it.

A fatality, amputation, loss of an eye, etc. may not always be simultaneous with the incident. If a worker dies within 30 days of the work-related incident, it must be reported to OSHA. Further, for an inpatient hospitalization, amputation or loss of an eye, such incidents must be reported to OSHA if they occur within 24 hours of the work-related incident.

Employers have three options for reporting the event:

  1. Call the nearest OSHA Area Office during normal business hours.
  2. Call the 24-hour OSHA hotline (1.800.321.OSHA or 1.800.321.6742).
  3. OSHA is developing a new means of reporting events electronically, which will be released soon and accessible on OSHA's website.

Under OSHA's recordkeeping regulation, certain covered employers are required to prepare and maintain records of serious occupational injuries and illnesses using the OSHA 300 Log. However, two classes of employers are partially exempt from routinely keeping injury and illness records. First, employers with 10 or fewer employees at all times during the previous calendar year are exempt from routinely keeping OSHA injury and illness records. OSHA's revised recordkeeping regulation maintains this exemption. Second, establishments in certain low-hazard industries are also partially exempt from routinely keeping OSHA injury and illness records. Starting on January 1, 2015, a new list of industries will be partially exempt from keeping OSHA records, but OSHA will also require 25 new industries to keep illness and injury records. Notwithstanding these exemptions from routine recordkeeping requirements, all employers under OSHA jurisdiction are subject to the new reporting requirements. (See https://www.osha.gov/recordkeeping2014/reporting_industries.htmlfor additional information).

OSHA’s goal in expanding the reporting obligations is to better focus its resources and attention on those industries or workplaces that present the greatest risk to workers. Even before this expansion, OSHA took very seriously the prompt reporting of covered incidents. Such scrutiny is likely to increase. If you have questions regarding this new rule or any other aspect of OSHA’s applicability to your workplace, please contact the author.