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Troubling Findings from OSHA’s Severe Injury Reporting Program

by Frank MacDonald on February 24, 2017

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Each year the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) releases its Top 10 Health and Safety Violations . This list is based on the most cited violations from the 32,000 workplace inspections OSHA completed last yearAs we covered on the site before, the most troubling part of the list is that the violations rarely change. A new rule took effect January 1, 2015 to combat this. Employers must now report any work-related amputation, in-patient hospitalization or loss of eye within 24-hours to OSHA. This new ruling is added to the already existing requirement to report a fatality within eight hours.


OSHA's severe injury reporting program


Why the Change?

Before this new ruling, OSHA lacked data about where and how most severe injuries where occurring. This limited how effectively the agency could respond. David Michaels, author of the report Year One of OSHA’s Severe Injury Reporting Program: An Impact Evaluation said:

“Too often, we would investigate a fatal injury only to find a history of serious injuries at the same workplace. Each of those injuries was a wake-up call for safety that went unheeded.”


The Goal of OSHA’s Severe Injury Reporting Program:

OSHA created the new reporting requirements for two reasons:

  1. To allow the agency to better target their compliance assistance and enforcement efforts to places where workers are at greatest risk.
  2. To encourage high-violation employers to identify and eliminate serious hazards from their workplaces.

Both of these goals are being met, according to Michaels. This is based on OSHA investigator experience in the field and data collected from over 10,000 severe injury reports filed in the first year. The report, which can be downloaded here, indicates that the top 5 severe injuries to date, over all industries were:

OSHA's Severe Injury Reporting Program


Findings From the First Year:

In the first full year of the program, employers notified OSHA of 10,388 incidents involving severe work-related injuries. This included 7,636 hospitalizations and 2,644 amputations. Manufacturing was the leading industry in both of these categories with 26% of hospitalizations and 57% of amputations. According to the report,

“The numbers amount to 30 work-related severe injuries per day — evidence that, despite decades of progress, many U.S. worksites remain hazardous to workers.”

oil rig workers


Reporting Will Create Safer Workplaces:

The goal of this new requirement isn’t to shut down worksites, but rather to encourage employers to become proactive in prevention. By requiring employers to report these injuries, OSHA can better work with employers to eliminate hazards and protect other workers from the same injuries in the future. An example provided in the report:

“In Chicago, a conveyor loaded with liquid chocolate suddenly started up as a worker was cleaning a roller. Her arm was pulled in and mangled so badly that its repair required a plate and skin grafting. To prevent future injuries, the employer installed metal guards to shield workers’ arms and hands from moving machinery as well as warning alarms and flashing lights that are activated 20 seconds before the conveyor moves.”

More than half of the reports that were filed in 2015 didn’t result in an inspector visiting the scene but rather OSHA had employers conduct their own incident investigation and propose solutions to prevent future injuries. This way, employers can get into a mindset of looking for potential issues before an incident occurs.


Become Proactive in Prevention:

While the new reporting requirements provide OSHA with more accurate data, the injuries that make up the statistics are largely preventable. Safeguards like training and Personal Protective Equipment are an excellent starting point for reducing work-related injuries.

(Not sure where to start? Download our FREE Top Ten Compliance Tips Sheet by clicking the button below!)

compliance tip sheet
compliance tip sheet

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