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Injury and illness reports up, but OSHA expected more under revised rules


WASHINGTON — The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration expects to receive about 12,000 injury and illness reports by the end of the year under its revised reporting requirements — a number that will fall far short of the total reports employers should be filing, according to a top agency official.

OSHA's revised reporting requirements, effective Jan. 1, kept the mandate that all workplace fatalities be reported within eight hours, but added a new requirement that employers report the hospitalization of a single employee — rather than three or more employees as previously required — as well as all amputations and loss of an eye within 24 hours of management learning of the incidents.

This revision led to a sharp increase in the number of reports filed, with the agency receiving 200 to 250 new reports each week.

“That's probably about half or a little less than half of the actual amputation and hospitalizations that we should be seeing,” David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health, said during a National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health meeting in Washington on Wednesday. “It's keeping us plenty busy, so we haven't been pushing hard to get lots more, but we believe very strongly that employers should be reporting these amputations and hospitalizations to us.”

Of the more than 10,000 reports filed to date, about 35% to 40% resulted in on-site inspections, while 50% resulted in a rapid response investigation that requests additional information about the incident and the employer's corrective actions, according to Mr. Michaels. The rest of the reports resulted in no action because the event was not reportable, such as when an employee suffers a non-work related heart attack, or the agency does not have jurisdiction.

“There are some employers who over report, and we understand that and we thank them for the report,” Mr. Michaels said.

The agency hopes this approach will help it prioritize which employer worksites to inspect, he said.

“The inspections have led us to some of our egregious cases — cases that have really been remarkable in the poor behavior that we're seeing,” Mr. Michaels said, citing a case in which a Houston-area employer ignored an employee request for fall protection equipment, which led to an employee falling and being severely burned. The employer faced several citations and fines, including a $70,000 fine for a willful violation for not reporting the injury.

OSHA's penalties for willful and other violations will rise significantly, thanks to the bipartisan budget bill signed last month by President Barack Obama. The willful citation penalties could increase up to $126,500 from $70,000 once the updated penalties are finalized by Aug. 1, 2016.

“We're extremely pleased to see this,” Mr. Michaels said. “We've been raising this issue for a long time and the White House has been supportive of this. It will have a big impact.”

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