OSHA on Thursday unveiled a final rule requiring employers to notify the agency when an employee is killed on the job or suffers a work-related hospitalization, amputation or loss of an eye.
Under the revised rule, employers will be required to notify OSHA of work-related fatalities within eight hours, and work-related in-patient hospitalizations, amputations or losses of an eye within 24 hours.
Under the current rule, if a worker is killed on the job, or three or more workers are hospitalized, the employer must notify OSHA. Reporting single hospitalizations, amputations or loss of an eye was not required under the previous rule.
The revised rule, which also updates the list of employers partially exempt from OSHA recordkeeping requirements, will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2015, for workplaces under federal OSHA jurisdiction. State-plan states will set the implementation dates for their employers, but OSHA Administrator David Michaels encouraged those states to implement the new provisions on Jan. 1.
In a Thursday conference call with reporters, Michaels said the revision to OSHA's reporting requirements is "long overdue."
"We believe that the new more cohesive and comprehensive reporting system will benefit all employers and workers and will contribute to lower injury rates," Michaels said.
This is an example of the application of behavioral economics to worker safety.
— OSHA Administrator David Michaels
Michaels called the revised rule "an example of the application of behavioral economics to worker safety."
"When an employer notifies of us a severe injury among its workers, we’ll ask what caused the injury, and what the employer intends to do to address the hazard and prevent future injuries," Michaels explained. "That employer will then be on notice that osha knows about that severe injury and will have made the commitment to address the hazards. We believe that as a result of this interaction, that employer will be more likely to take the steps necessary to better protect the lives and limbs of their employees."
Another benefit of the revised rule is that the additional injury data from employers "will help us better allocate agency resources and assess the adequacy of our standards," Michaels said.
"For example, the reports on amputations will provide us with information to better focus the scope of our amputation prevention and inspection program and evaluate possible deficincies in our machine guarding standards," he added. "It will also help us better target employers and industries that need the assistance of our free onsite consultation program."
The announcement comes on the heels of preliminary results from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2013 National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, in which BLS reported that 4,405 workers were killed on the job in 2013.
"We believe the updated rule will help reduce this unnaceptable high number of injuries," Michaels said during Thursday's conference call, referring to the BLS data. "The updated recordkeeping and reporting requirements are not simply paperwork, but in fact have an important life-saving purpose."
All employers covered by the Occupational Safety and Health Act – even those who are exempt from maintaining injury and illness records – are required to comply with OSHA’s new severe injury and illness reporting requirements.
The updated recordkeeping and reporting requirements are not simply paperwork, but in fact have an important life-saving purpose.
— OSHA Administrator David Michaels
To assist employers in fulfilling these requirements, OSHA is developing a Web portal for employers to report incidents electronically, in addition to the phone reporting options.
“Hospitalizations and amputations are sentinel events, indicating that serious hazards are likely to be present at a workplace and that an intervention is warranted to protect the other workers at the establishment,” Michaels said in a news release.
In addition to the new reporting requirements, OSHA has updated the list of industries that, due to relatively low occupational injury and illness rates, are exempt from the requirement to routinely keep injury and illness records.
The previous list of exempt industries was based on the old Standard Industrial Classification system and the new rule uses the North American Industry Classification System to classify establishments by industry. The new list is based on updated injury and illness data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The new rule maintains the exemption for any employer with 10 or fewer employees – regardless of their industry classification – from the requirement to routinely keep records of worker injuries and illnesses.