May 6, 2015 Celeste Monforton, DrPH, MPH 3Comment

I’ve heard dozens and dozens of examples of workers getting seriously injured on-the-job. Many times the tale ends with a remark like this:

“and the company never told OSHA.”  

There was the guy on a moving crew in Milwaukee whose foot was crushed in a faulty freight elevator. A day laborer in Cincinnati who lost part of his finger in a chain saw. A painter in Houston who suffered a fractured pelvis and leg when his scaffold collapsed.

In every case, whether the worker himself or a co-worker told the story, they thought it especially important to tell me this: neither the boss nor anybody from the company reported the incident to OSHA. These individuals were suggesting to me—and it seemed like a reasonable thing to presume—that if a worker loses a limb, lands in the hospital, or has to have surgery because of a work-related incident, surely OSHA should be told about it. I was left to explain otherwise.

Until January 1, 2015, the only incidents that employers were required to report to OSHA were (1) a fatality, and (2) an incident that led to the overnight hospitalization of three or more workers. Lose a limb in a punch press, or an eyeball from a toxic chemical splash, and nobody was required to pick up the phone and call OSHA. “For real?” or “Que loco” is what they’d say when I explained OSHA’s weak requirements for employers to report serious injuries.

An article in this week’s Houston Chronicle explains why the change that happened January 1 matters. In “’Mini-trend’ of post-storm accidents gets OSHA’s attention,” L.M. Sixel reports that heavy rain and winds last week in east Texas downed power lines and trees. Those hazards led to a number of serious work-related injuries, as well as the death of worker by electrocution. OSHA’s area director for the northern part of Houston, Joann Figueroa, told Sixel

“… she grew alarmed when her office became aware of the cluster of accidents and she credited a change in federal regulations beginning Jan. 1 that requires companies to notify OSHA within 24 hours if an employee is admitted to a hospital. Employers also must notify the agency if an employee loses an eye or undergoes amputation.  ….With the new rules in place, Figueroa said, OSHA can spot trends more quickly and intervene with resources and suggestions.”

Having the data promptly can help identify a trend early and

“…stop others from getting hurt on the job as they repair power lines, trim trees and clear out debris.”

I was in Houston last week and experienced some of the storms. Now, just a few days later, I’m impressed to read a news story about how a local OSHA office is making good (and quick) use of the data now being reported to it.

 

3 thoughts on ““His boss never told OSHA”

  1. I’m a health and safety EHO working in local government in Scotland and have been a frequent reader of The Pump Handle since I discovered it about a year ago. Worker fatality rates in the USA are at least double what they are in UK. I think our relative success is partly due to the 30 years of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and its comprehensive, goal-setting approach to workplace safety and health.
    Accident reporting in UK has always been far more comprehensive that the OSHA rules – even now. I was frankly astonished to see how serious an incident had to be prior to 1st January to be reportable, and even now the rules set a very high threshold for reporting. In UK, the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 require, for worker non-fatal injuries alone, the following to be reported:
    Specified injuries to workers
    The list of ‘specified injuries’ in RIDDOR 2013 replaces the previous list of ‘major injuries’ in RIDDOR 1995. Specified injuries are (regulation 4):
    – fractures, other than to fingers, thumbs and toes
    – amputations
    – any injury likely to lead to permanent loss of sight or reduction in sight
    – any crush injury to the head or torso causing damage to the brain or internal organs
    -serious burns (including scalding) which:
    – – covers more than 10% of the body
    – – causes significant damage to the eyes, respiratory system or other vital organs
    – any scalping requiring hospital treatment
    – any loss of consciousness caused by head injury or asphyxia
    – any other injury arising from working in an enclosed space which:
    – – leads to hypothermia or heat-induced illness
    – – requires resuscitation or admittance to hospital for more than 24 hours
    In addition, any incident which results in a worker not being able to do their normal work for more than 7 days is reportable, as are incidents which require a member of the public to be taken to hospital for treatment (whether out- or in-patient).
    As an inspector, I receive notifications of all reports in my county for premises we enforce. This provides us with essential information about incidents which need to be investigated, or paint a picture of the health and safety performance of businesses, or provide intelligence about issues generally in a sector. Often these reports are the only way we discover serious compliance failings which require regulatory intervention to correct.
    RIDDOR also sets out requirements for occupational ill-health in certain categories to be reported, and for a long list of dangerous occurrences to be reported, such as a crane overturning.

  2. I worked at a Food Plant. My hand was burnt by what appeared to be caustic chemical left in a white scoop left in the sink. Within minutes, may hand started getting tight. By the time I left work, the skin was very tight. By next morning, my skin had stared to peal like a snake skin. My supervisor had me sit in the break room for the entire next shift and not do anything (loss of productivity and job restriction) This is a reportable injury from what I read. However, upon requesting injury reports reported, I find mine was not reported. Now, no one will answer whether or not the company reported the injury. After about 50 reports about safety and some being ignored, I filed a “signed” written complaint to OSHA. Then through research, I find the company has a member on the Whistleblower Protection Advisory Committee.

  3. Don: Sorry to hear of your injury and I hope you are doing better. Concerning reporting to OSHA, it’s important to distinguish between a Reportable incident and a Recordable incident. A Reportable incident includes hospitalization overnight, amputation, or loss of an eye. When these incidents occur, the employer is required to contact OSHA and Report it. But your incident sounds like it falls under the Recordable incident rules, that is, an incident that must be recorded on the employer’s OSHA 300 Log. This is an internal report and does not require reporting to OSHA unless OSHA requests to see it (typically during an OSHA inspection). I have a free recorded webinar available on OSHA Recordkeeping Requirements that may help in a better understanding of this OSHA rule on Youtube at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC7bNdA1oL1LddWJlwKqJP_A/feed

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