New OSHA Rule Could Affect Workers’ Compensation

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The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued a final ruling that will require employers to notify them when an employee suffers an egregious wound or is killed on the job. For employers under federal OSHA jurisdiction, this new rule will go into effect on January 1, 2015. Individual states will get to set their own implementation dates, but David Michaels, OSHA Administrator, urges these states to implement the new provisions on the same day as the federal plan goes into effect.

Specifically, employers have to notify OSHA within 24 hours if an employee suffers a work-related hospitalization, amputation or loss of an eye. If an employee dies on the job, the employer has to notify OSHA within eight hours.

Under the previous rule, reporting singular incidents wasn’t required. Employers only had to report work-related fatalities and in-patient hospitalizations of three or more employees.

The new rule comes on the heels of preliminary results from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2013 National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries.

“Today, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 4,405 workers were killed on the job in 2013. We can and must do more to keep America’s workers safe and healthy,” said Thomas E. Perez, the U.S. Secretary of Labor. “Workplace injuries and fatalities are absolutely preventable, and these new requirements will help OSHA focus its resources and hold employers accountable for preventing them.”

Although OSHA doesn’t work directly with workers’ compensation — a form of insurance that covers injured workers’ medical expenses, economic losses, and other damages, administered by the U.S. Department of Labor — this new rule should have an impact on the program. It will help provide data that OSHA can use to better inform their decisions. As Michaels puts it, the revised rule is “an example of the application of behavioral economics to worker safety.”

“When an employer notifies of us a severe injury among its workers, we’ll ask what caused the injury, and what the employer intends to do to address the hazard and prevent future injuries,” explained the OSHA Administrator. “That employer will then be on notice that OSHA knows about that severe injury and will have made the commitment to address the hazards. We believe that as a result of this interaction, that employer will be more likely to take the steps necessary to better protect the lives and limbs of their employees.”

Michaels was also sure to note that, “We believe that the new more cohesive and comprehensive reporting system will benefit all employers and workers and will contribute to lower injury rates.”

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