In a recent blog post, John Martin, a shareholder in Washington, D.C. and a member of the firm’s Workplace Safety and Health Practice Group, discussed the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) announcement of a new rule that significantly changes an employer’s duties to report workplace injuries to OSHA.
The current rule requires employers to report to OSHA only workplace-related fatalities and in-patient hospitalizations of three or more employees. Employers have an eight-hour deadline from the time of the incident to make the report to the nearest OSHA area office or to its toll-free hotline.
In approximately half of the states in the United States, “state plan” government agencies enforce OSHA standards under the general oversight of federal OSHA. Tennessee is a “state plan” state. The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (TOSHA) is the designated occupational safety and health agency in Tennessee.
State plans must set workplace safety and health standards that are “at least as effective” as federal OSHA’s standards. In accordance with this requirement, Tennessee follows federal OSHA’s current rule on reporting workplace fatalities and hospitalizations.
Federal OSHA’s revised rule will significantly alter an employer’s reporting requirements. Tennessee has adopted this revised reporting rule. The primary change between the two versions of the rule is that the threshold for an employer to report an in-patient hospitalization has been lowered from three or more hospitalized employees to one or more hospitalized employees. The rule does expand the time to report such hospitalizations from 8 hours to 24 hours. There are also new provisions for reporting (within 24 hours) amputations, the loss of any eye, and motor vehicle accidents within construction work zones. The one constant between the two versions of the rule is the requirement that an employer report a workplace fatality within 8 hours.
While the federal OSHA revised rule will go into effect on January 1, 2015, the rule will not become effective in Tennessee until February 24, 2015.
In Tennessee, the toll free number to call to report an incident is 1-800-249-8510. If a TOSHA official cannot be reached by telephone (i.e., after normal business hours), rather than leaving a voice mail message, employers must report the incident using the federal OSHA toll-free number: 1-800-321-OSHA (6742). Federal OSHA is developing a website to allow employers to also report electronically. Tennessee will participate in that online reporting mechanism.