OSHA Putting Hospitalized Workplace Injuries Online for All to See
Beginning January 1, 2015, employers will be required to report workplace injuries requiring hospitalization to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) within 24 hours. Workplace fatalities still need to be reported within 8 hours. OSHA believes that thousands of injuries go unreported each year. Under the new rules, workplace injury and illness events will be publicized on the OSHA website. They currently post all workplace-related fatalities which will remain under the new regulation.
Hospitalization, under the new rule, is defined as, “a formal admission to the inpatient service of a hospital or clinic for care or treatment.” The keywords are “formal admission.” The employee must be admitted to the hospital and not simply visit the emergency room for treatment, observation, or diagnostic testing. Further, the new rule requires reporting any work-related amputation or eye loss within 24 hours.
An Extra Nudge
While the OSHA website already reports worker fatalities, the agency believes that companies need an extra nudge to ensure that they’re taking injury prevention seriously. The posting of injuries and illness requiring hospitalization can have serious ramifications including the potential loss of customers, difficulty attracting high-level talent, reduced investment, and lower shareholder value.
Some business groups are not pleased with OSHA’s approach and doubt it will provide positive benefits to worker safety. But OSHA counters that posting injuries offers an additional layer of accountability to companies that refuse to provide adequate safety protocol and without adding additional health and safety inspectors. Due to budget cuts, OSHA has been forced to reduce the number of health and safety inspectors since 1981 even though the number of U.S. employers has doubled in that time.
At current staffing levels, OSHA estimates that it would take 131 years to inspect every U.S. workplace. OSHA believes with this new rule, it can expose chronic offenders and get the same effect as workplace inspections without spending tax dollars on more inspectors.
“OSHA will now receive crucial reports of fatalities and severe work-related injuries and illnesses that will significantly enhance the agency’s ability to target our resources to save lives and prevent further injury and illness. This new data will enable the agency to identify the workplaces where workers are at the greatest risk and target our compliance assistance and enforcement resources accordingly.” ~ Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health
Exempt Industries Updated
The rule also updates the list of industries that are exempt from the requirement to keep OSHA injury and illness records due to low occupational injury and illness rates. It also switches the old Standard Industrial Classification system (SIC) to the modern North American Industry Classification System (NAICS). As always, the new rule retains the exemption for companies with 10 or fewer employees regardless of the industry classification.
Businesses in states that fall under the Federal OSHA jurisdiction must comply with the new requirements beginning January 1, 2015. For states that operate on State Safety and Health Programs should look to their State Plan for compliance information.