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.