An updated “recordkeeping rule” may sound like a mundane clerical change, but new revisions from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will have a significant impact on how employers — and the public — view workplace injuries.
Last month, OSHA issued a final rule that will greatly expand the type of work-related injuries that employers must report to the federal agency. Currently, employers covered by the Occupational Safety and Health Act are required to report all workplace fatalities, as well as incidents involving the hospitalization of three or more employees – considered “catastrophes” – to OSHA within eight hours. Under the revised regulations, which take effect Jan. 1, 2015, employers must also report all in-patient hospitalizations, amputations and eye losses within 24 hours.
According to a statement issued by OSHA assistant secretary of labor David Michaels, reporting hospitalizations and amputations will help the agency “better identify workplaces where workers are at the greatest risk and to target our compliance assistance and enforcement resources accordingly.”
Given that the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that nearly four million serious occupational injuries and illnesses occur each year, that could add up to a major increase in reporting — and time. One OSHA official estimates each incident will take about 30 minutes to log and report.
Employers will also need to train employees on how to comply with the new requirements, trade groups say, and keep track of the timeframe following a workplace incident. The requirement includes fatalities that occur within 30 days of the incident, and hospitalizations, amputations and eye losses that occur within 24 hours of the causative workplace event.
Despite the common goal of fewer workplace fatalities and injuries, there is also debate whether OSHA’s expanded net will help achieve that, given the current backlog of inspections. While not every incident will be inspected on-site, the agency will “engage” with employers to determine the cause of the injury and what steps will be taken to address the hazard.
In terms of “nudging” employers to address hazards and prevent injuries, however, the updated requirements add one more arrow to OSHA’s quiver: public exposure. All reports will be available on OSHA’s website.
As Michaels stated, “After all, if you had a choice of applying for a job at a workplace where a worker had recently lost a hand, versus one where no amputations had occurred — which would you choose?”