Failing to Follow OSHA Procedures Can Be Costly

No matter how many training sessions or precautions an employer might take, employee accidents and injuries are bound to happen. Most employers are necessarily familiar with the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), a law that sets forth minimum safety standards employers must ensure in their workspaces. Creating an OSHA-compliant workspace is essential not only to employee safety, but also to protecting your business from paying large—often preventable—fines. Beyond just your workspace, however, it is just as important for employers to keep up-to-date on OSHA procedures because failing to strictly adhere to OSHA’s procedural requirements can be just as costly as having a safety violation.

Providing Notice

One of the most common procedural violations is failing to properly report an employee’s fatality, in-patient hospitalization, amputation, and loss of an eye to OSHA. Many employers often remember to report these injuries and fatalities to OSHA, but often fail to do so within the required time-periods.

Federal regulations require employers to report any work-related fatalities within eight hours after the death has occurred. 29 C.F.R. § 1904.39(a)(1). Moreover, any in-patient hospitalization of one or more employees,  any amputation, or any eye loss must be reported to OSHA within twenty-four hours of the injury. Id. at § 1904.39(a)(2). OSHA defines in-patient hospitalization as a formal admission to the in-patient service of a hospital or clinic for care or treatment. 29 C.F.R. § 1904.39(b)(9). A report is not required if hospitalization involves only “observation or diagnostic testing.” Id. at §1904.39(b)(10). If an employer learns of the incident after time has passed, then the incident must be reported within the respective eight or twenty-four hour period from the time the employer learns of the injuryId. at § 1904.39(b)(7).

These reports must be made either: 1) by telephone or in person to the OSHA Area Office located nearest to site of the injury; 2) by phone to the OSHA toll-free telephone line [1-800-321-OSHA/1-800-321-6742]; or 3) by electronic submission using the reporting application on the OSHA website.

For each of these fatalities and/or injuries, the employer’s report must include:

  1. The establishment name;
  2. The location of the work-related incident;
  3. The time of the work-related incident;
  4. Whether the incident involved a fatality, an in-patient hospitalization, an amputation, or an eye-loss;
  5. The number of employees who suffered the type of fatality/injury;
  6. The name(s) of the employee(s) who suffered the fatality)/injury;
  7. The name and phone number of the person to contact at the establishment; and
  8. A brief description of the incident.

Failure to report these fatalities or injuries in the allotted time, or using an improper method may constitute an “Other-than-Serious” OSHA violation. Although OSHA has some flexibility in determining the dollar amount for these penalties, violating the above time-requirements and methods can result in a fine as high as $13,260 per incident—this, in addition to any penalty that might result from an OSHA safety violation.

To avoid these harsh penalties, employers should promptly file these reports in accordance with the procedures listed above. Even if the incident occurs on a Friday afternoon at 5:00 p.m., the reporting requirements listed above must still be met to avoid any chance for these procedural fines.

If you have additional questions or concerns regarding the Occupational Safety and Health Act, or if you need help maneuvering through an OSHA inspection or violation, please contact one of our attorneys. We would be happy to assist you and your business.