Legal Updates

OSHA Expands Reporting And Record-Keeping Requirements And Changes Employer Exemptions

Employers are now subject to heightened reporting requirements and different exemptions under a final rule issued by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”). Specifically, the final rule (1) expands the types of severe work-related accidents that employers must report to OSHA, and (2) revises the categories of industries exempt from record-keeping requirements for less serious incidents.

In states directly covered by OSHA, including Massachusetts, the final rule became effective January 1, 2015. In states with their own OSHA-approved workplace safety and health program, the new requirements are expected to take effect later this year. Accordingly, all employers should carefully review the final rule with counsel and take appropriate steps to achieve compliance.

Fatalities And Other Severe Accidents

The final rule expands employers’ reporting obligations for severe accidents and imposes short time frames. Employers now must: (i) report within eight hours any work-related fatality, and (ii) report within 24 hours any work-related injury or illness resulting in an employee’s inpatient hospitalization, an amputation, or the loss of an eye. Employers were not required to report single hospitalizations, amputations, or eye losses under the prior rule.

These reporting requirements have certain exceptions. A fatality need not be reported if death occurs more than 30 days after the accident. Similarly, a hospitalization, amputation, or eye loss need not be reported if more than 24 hours elapse between the accident and the event. An employer also need not report an event resulting from a motor vehicle accident on a public street or highway (unless in a construction zone) or occurring on a commercial or public transportation system.

OSHA is developing a Web portal through which employers may file electronic reports of covered events. Previously, employers could file such reports only by telephone.

General Record-Keeping Requirements

The final rule also revises the categories of employers exempt from OSHA’s requirements (i) to maintain logs of serious work-related injuries and illnesses, (ii) to document such events through written incident reports, and (iii) to notify employees of such incidents through annual reports posted in the workplace.

Exemptions still exist for employers with ten or fewer employees at all times during the previous calendar year, as well as for employers in certain “low hazard” industries. However, OSHA has revised the methodology for determining which industries are “low hazard.” Now, some businesses – including automobile dealers, specialty food stores, lessors of real estate, performing art companies, museums, and historical sites – are subject to the record-keeping requirements for the first time. Other employers, such as colleges and universities, clothing stores, restaurants, and newspaper and book publishers, will no longer be required to maintain such records, unless specifically directed to do so by OSHA.

Effective Date Of Final Rule

In the 29 states that do not have their own OSHA-approved workplace safety and health programs, the final rule took effect January 1, 2015. These states are Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Texas, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

The 21 states with their own workplace safety and health programs have been instructed by OSHA to implement the requirements of the final rule promptly. These states are Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wyoming. Employers in these states should contact their state program directly for guidance as to when the new obligations will become effective.

Recommendations

In light of these developments, we suggest that employers:

  • Carefully review the OSHA final rule;
  • In consultation with experienced counsel, revise internal policies and practices as necessary to comply with the final rule;
  • Train supervisors, HR employees, and other appropriate personnel in reporting, documenting, and otherwise responding to work-related fatalities, injuries, and illnesses; and
  • Remain vigilant for workplace conditions that may present health or safety risks.

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If you have any questions about the OSHA final rule or any other health or safety issues, please do not hesitate to contact us.