Anytime a worker suffers a significant on the job injury or work related illness that results in lost time from work, medical treatment beyond first aid, loss of consciousness, transfer to another job, restricted work or death, employers are required to notify the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in a timely manner. While serious injuries and illnesses must be reported within 24 hours, employers only have eight hours to report fatalities. According to recent information from OSHA, however, more than 50 percent of serious work related injuries and fatalities are not being reported. The conclusion was drawn based on a variety of factors, one of which was an evaluation of the types of employers who made injury or fatality reports last year.
Since the majority of reports were made by larger employers, and the new regulation was just put in place in January of 2015, OSHA has expressed concern that many smaller and mid-sized employers may not be aware of what is required. In an effort to more accurately evaluate the safety of work places, better understand industry hazards, and increase the safety of employees, OSHA is currently searching for ways to boost awareness about the new requirements and the resources that are available to employers.
In 2014, workers across the nation suffered approximately 4,600 fatal work related injuries, with an alarming 164 occurring in the state of Illinois alone. Additionally, there were nearly 3 million serious nonfatal work related injuries and illnesses reported. While most of the workers injured (75 percent) were employed in service-providing occupations, it should be noted that work related injuries, illnesses and fatalities are possible in any industry. For this reason, all employers play a significant role in improving the safety of workers by complying with reporting regulations.
The Significance of Reporting On the Job Injuries and Fatalities
Unfortunately, many employers do not realize the significance of providing accurate injury and fatality reports to OSHA. Each time a severe accident or injury is reported to OSHA, it represents a time when an unsuspecting employee simply went to work one day and did not come home the same. In many cases, victims suffered injuries and emotional trauma so severe that their lives, and the lives of their family members were changed forever. Sadly, many never came home. By accurately reporting incidents that result in hospitalization or death in the workplace, employers can help reduce hazards and ensure that fewer workers are victim to such trauma.
To make injury reporting more accessible to employers, OSHA offers three reporting methods. Serious injuries and fatalities can be reported by:
- Calling OSHA’s confidential, toll free telephone number.
- Calling a local area office during regular business hours.
- Using OSHA’s new online reporting form.
Sadly, many employers are aware of the new reporting regulations, but still do not report serious injuries, illnesses or fatalities. For those who choose not to report these events, however, OSHA has implemented higher penalties for failing to report significant injuries. Currently, fines can range from $1,000 up to $7,000, but those penalties are likely to increase in the near future. If an employer is aware of the reporting requirements and fails to report, they could be faced with penalties that are significantly higher. In a recent case, an employer was fined $70,000 for willful failure to report.
Accessible Injury, Illness and Fatality Records
In addition to reporting severe injuries, illnesses and fatalities to OSHA, employers with establishments that are not partially exempt and who have ten or more workers must keep accurate records of workplace incidents. Those employers are required to post OHSA form 300A in an accessible area of the workplace from February 1st to April 30th every year. Employers must make injury and illness records available to former employees, current employees and their representatives by the end of the business day following their request. Under the record keeping regulation, the following types of incidents must be recorded.
- All fatalities
- All on the job illnesses and injuries that result in missed time from work, medical treatment beyond first aid, loss of consciousness, job change or work restriction.
- All work related illnesses and injuries that are diagnosed by a physician or other licensed healthcare provider.
- Events or exposures in the work environment that significantly aggravated a pre-existing condition.
In some cases, injured workers are refused workers’ compensation benefits because the employer or the insurance company attempts to claim that the victim’s injuries or illness was caused by events outside of work. By having access to work related injury, illness and fatality records, victims, their family members and their workers’ compensation attorney Chicago may be able to establish proof that the significant injury or illness resulted from events or exposure that occurred in the workplace.