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New OSHA Regulations: Are You Ready?

Contributed by Jim Rogers – Director, Arizona State University’s OSHA Education Center

In 2014 OSHA published new rules for reporting occupational injuries. These rules take effect in most states on January 1, 2015, and it is important for all businesses to be aware of the changes and the effect they may have on your company’s interactions with OSHA.

The new rules greatly expand the list of severe work related injuries that employers must report directly to OSHA. These rules retain the current requirement to report all fatalities within 8 hours, and they add new requirements to report all inpatient hospitalizations, amputations and loss of an eye within 24 hours directly to OSHA. Previously, employers only had to report to report to OSHA when an accident resulted in the hospitalization of 3 or more employees.

New Reporting Requirements

This new reporting requirement is expected to significantly increase the number of contacts between industry and OSHA. In the past, even serious injuries such as the loss of a finger or other amputation typically only got recorded on the company’s OSHA 300 log. Now you will be required to contact OSHA and report the incident. What does that mean for employers? Should we expect more workplace inspections? Will OSHA send a compliance officer once they are notified?

OSHA states that these new rules will allow them to focus their efforts more effectively to prevent fatalities and severe work-related injuries and illnesses. Simply put, these new contacts may help them refocus their efforts and their inspection activities; however, it does not mean that they are going to send a compliance officer out every time someone reports a hospitalization.

No Increased Funding

The fact is that these new rules don’t come with any increased funding for the agency, so just because they may end up with increased contact with industry, it doesn’t mean they are suddenly going to flood the streets with more compliance officers. What it will do is give them another tool they can use in determining where they are needed.

In a recent meeting with Dr. Michaels, U.S. Assistant Secretary of Labor in charge of OSHA, he stated that the agency has had lengthy discussions on the potential issue of not being able to respond in person to every report. This is an anticipated reality as these new rules take effect next year. However, even though they may not always be able to provide an on-site response, it will give them the opportunity to do several things.

Better Incident Tracking

First, they may (and probably will) still ask you to provide supporting information when you contact them, such as accident investigation reports or copies of your OSHA 300 log. They will also be able to begin tracking these reports to alert them to companies, industries or projects that may appear to have a disproportionate number of serious injuries. This is a tool they have lacked in the past, and it is reasonable to expect that they will use this to help focus their inspections.

So, what does this all mean? Dr. Michaels has stated that his intent is to use OSHA’s compliance resources to level the playing field for those businesses that are doing things right and protecting their employees while competing against those that are not following the rules and those that are not providing a safe and healthy work place. These new reporting requirements will better assist OSHA in its quest to determine who is who.