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OSHA: 10K Severe Injuries Reported

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

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Federal safety and health regulators said more than 10,000 severe work-related injuries were reported to OSHA during the first year of the agency’s new reporting requirement.

According to OSHA, this activity better provides it the opportunity to work with employers to eliminate hazards and protect other workers, it said in an announcement Thursday (March 17).

“In case after case, the prompt reporting of worker injuries has created opportunities for us to work with employers we wouldn’t have had contact with otherwise,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health David Michaels.

“The result is safer workplaces for thousands of workers,” he added.

Workplace Safety
© iStock.com /YinYang

In the first full year of its new reporting requierment, OSHA said that employers reported 10,388 severe injuries, including 7,636 hospitalizations and 2,644 amputations.

Still, not all workplaces are reporting and others go to great lengths to hide workplace dangers, the agency has found.

OSHA shares the details—and the cases behind them—from the first full year of the reporting program in the report “Year One of OSHA’s Severe Injury Reporting Program: An Impact Evaluation,” authored by Michaels.

Year in Review

Since Jan. 1, 2015, employers have been required to report any severe work-related injury—e.g., a hospitalization, amputation or loss of an eye—within 24 hours. (The requirement that an employer report a workplace fatality within eight hours remains in force.)

In the first full year of the program, OSHA noted that employers reported 10,388 severe injuries, including 7,636 hospitalizations and 2,644 amputations. 

The injury reports come from federal OSHA states only and do not include injuries from states that administer their own safety and health programs, the agency said. However, according to the report, the numbers amount to 30 work-related severe injuries a day—“evidence that, despite decades of progress, many U.S. worksites remain hazardous to workers,” it added.

In a majority of those cases, OSHA responded by working with the employer to identify and eliminate hazards, rather than conducting a worksite inspection.

One important objective of the program, it said, is to encourage employers to evaluate their own processes and equipment and determine what went wrong. Through this process, many employers have identified ways to eliminate hazards and protect other workers from the same injuries, OSHA found.

Working Toward Safety

According to OSHA, its new program is guided by the principle that “when employers engage with OSHA after a worker suffers a severe injury—whether or not a workplace inspection is launched—they are more likely to take action to prevent future injuries.”

Top Industry Groups for Severe Injuries OSHA
OSHA

One important objective of the program, it said, is to encourage employers to evaluate their own processes and equipment and determine what went wrong.

OSHA said it responded to 62 percent of the 2015 reports, including 69 percent of hospitalization reports, by asking employers to conduct their own investigations and then propose solutions to prevent future incidents, rather than by sending its own inspectors.

This approach, known as a Rapid Response Investigation (RRI), still involves an OSHA Area Office expert but  invites the employer and agency to work together toward a shared goal: fixing hazards and improving overall workplace safety.

Still, in 2015 OSHA responded to about a third of all injury reports, and 58 percent of amputation reports, with an inspection by a compliance officer after determining that the hazardous conditions described warranted one, it said.

Helping Employers, Large and Small

According to the report, after examining workers compensation claims, OSHA believes that as many as 50 percent of severe injuries are not being reported.

OSHA warns that if employers aren’t reporting because they “perceive the cost of not reporting to be low,” the fine for failing to report a severe injury has recently increased from $1,000 to $7,000—and will likely increase when the higher penalty levels recently approved by Congress are instituted.

Moreover, if OSHA determines an employer knew about the requirement but willfully failed to report, the fine can be much higher—one employer has already had penalties of $70,000 levied against it for this failure.

Additionally, most first-year reports were filed by large employers, leading the agency to suspect small and mid-sized employers aren’t aware of the new reporting requirements.

“OSHA will continue to evaluate the program and make changes to improve its effectiveness,” Dr. Michaels wrote in the report. “We are also seeking new ways to make sure that small employers know about their reporting obligations and the resources available to them.”

   

Tagged categories: Accidents; Enforcement; Government; Health and safety; OSHA; Safety

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