New OSHA rule expands recordkeeping requirements
More injuries, industries are covered by change in regulations
Q. John runs a small company that recently had two workers injured. Following a fire at the factory, Teresa needed to be hospitalized overnight for smoke inhalation. A fellow employee, Nick, suffered more serious burns that resulted in the amputation of a finger. Is John required to report any of the injuries?
A. The answer to John’s question today is “no.” However, come Jan. 1, 2015, that answer changes, and John would only have 24 hours to fulfill all of his reporting obligations to the federal government.
In states, such as New Hampshire, that do not have federally approved “state plans” for workplace safety and health, employers are subject to the regulations of the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration. This includes a recordkeeping rule, requiring that certain employers maintain records and, in some cases, report serious occupational injuries and illnesses.
Under the current rule, employers are only required to report the inpatient hospitalization of three or more workers or a work-related fatality. While other injuries must be recorded in the mandatory register known as the OSHA 300 Log of work-related injuries and illnesses, employers are not obligated to report to OSHA when fewer than three employees are involved and no deaths occur. Or, not yet, anyway.
In September, OSHA announced changes to the reporting requirements, expanding both the type of injury that must be reported and the employers who are required to report it.
Starting Jan. 1, employers will be required to report any of the following to OSHA:
• All work-related fatalities
• All work-related inpatient hospitalizations of one or more employees
• All work-related amputations
• All work-related losses of an eye.
Employers are required to verbally report any work-related fatalities within eight hours of finding out about them. For an inpatient hospitalization, amputation or eye loss, employers must report the incident within 24 hours of learning about it. Any death of a worker must be reported if it occurs within 30 days of the incident.
These reporting deadlines do not provide an unprepared employer with much time to figure out obligations under the recordkeeping rules.
Employers are given three options for reporting an event:
• Call the closest OSHA area office during normal business hours.
• Call the 24-hour OSHA hotline at 1-800-321-OSHA (6742).
• Report the event electronically at osha.gov (this option is still in development, and may not yet be available).
When reporting to OSHA, the employer, at the very least, needs to know the bare facts of the incident. This includes location, time and type of reportable event as well as the number and names of employees who suffered an injury.
Aside from reporting, will there be any other changes to John’s OSHA obligations in the new year? The answer depends on the size and industry of John’s business.
While all employers are required to report serious work-related injuries, certain employers are excused from recording less severe work-related injuries and illnesses.
Under OSHA’s recordkeeping regulations, many employers must prepare and maintain records of occupational injuries and illnesses using the OSHA 300 Log. The new rule updates the type of employers that are exempt from this routine recordkeeping.
Two classes of employers are currently exempt from OSHA’s recordkeeping requirements. An employer with 10 or fewer employees at all times during the previous year is exempt from routinely keeping injury and illness records. The updated rule maintains this exemption. Employers in certain low-hazard industries are also exempt from recordkeeping requirements (e.g. finance, insurance and real estate).
Starting Jan. 1, there will be a new list of industries exempt from keeping OSHA records. However, with this new list comes the addition of 25 new industries that had previously been exempt but will now be required to maintain records. These include some industries that may not seem particularly dangerous (museums, community housing and the ever-perilous tortilla manufacturing).
John will need to determine whether his business falls into one of the two exemption classes. This can be done by logging on to osha.gov and following the detailed instructions, or by contacting the local OSHA office.
Even if John’s business was previously exempt as low-hazard, the OSHA expansion has added so many new industries that he will want to confirm the exemption still applies. And if it doesn’t, there is work to be done. Jan. 1 is right around the corner, and meeting OSHA’s injury and illness recordkeeping requirements means new forms, policies and procedures that take time to implement.
OSHA, which believes workplace injuries like those described above are preventable, took prompt reporting and incident recording quite seriously prior to the new rule. This expansion likely indicates that the scrutiny will only increase.
Kenton Villano, an associate in the Litigation Practice Group at the law firm of McLane, Graf, Raulerson & Middleton, can be reached email@example.com or at 603-628-1180.