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OSHA’s Response to Reported Injuries

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As we all know by now, OSHA revised their reporting requirements which became effective on January 1, 2015.  Companies are now required to report any work-related death to OSHA within 8-hours, and report any amputation, eye loss, or the inpatient hospitalization of one (1) or more employee within 24-hours.  This has drastically increased the number of investigations the agency has had to manage and it’s no secret that they have struggled to keep-up.  We know several cases where employers have reported injuries as required, but never heard back from OSHA.  So what’s the deal?  Do they just respond to the more serious cases and let the rest go unless they aren’t busy?  Well… kind of.

OSHA knew they would face challenges with the increased volume of cases being reported, so they adopted a new protocol that was designed to help them effectively manage this burden.  This protocol basically involves the agency categorizing each case as it comes in and altering their response according to the category.  These categories are as follows…

  • CATEGORY 1 = Fatality, Multiple Inpatient Hospitalizations, Similar Event Reported within 12-Months, History of Willful or Repeat Violations, Employee Under 18 Years-Old, or Imminent Danger
  • CATEGORY 2 =  Serious Hazards, Uncontrolled Exposures, Safety Program Failures, Temporary Workers, History of OSHA Violations or Whistleblower Complaints, and Referrals from other Agencies
  • CATEGORY 3 =  A case that does not involve any of the previous factors.

If a reported case involves one (1) of the triggers listed beside “Category 1”, then the Area Director is likely to initiate an onsite inspection.  If a case involves two (2) or more triggers listed beside “Category 2”, then the Area Director is also likely to initiate an onsite inspection.  If a case is identified as a Category 3, then the agency may issue a “Rapid Response Form” if they believe a violation exists.  This is basically a form that will instruct the employer to conduct their own investigation of the incident.  Something interesting to note though is the fact that the Area Director is responsible for determining if/when an inspection occurs, and what type of inspection is conducted.  So it is possible for a company to report an injury case as required and not receive an onsite inspection or even a “Rapid Response Form”.

On a side note, if prompted to complete a “Rapid Response Form”, you will be asked to identify the root causes and name any modifications you could make to prevent re-occurrence.  This information could be used against you as an admission of liability or could result in a “Willful” violation if it appears you had prior knowledge of the hazard.  With that said, it may not be a bad idea to seek advice from your counsel prior to submitting this information.

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