On January 1, 2015, new federal workplace injury reporting requirements went into effect. During the first year of these new requirements, over 10,000 severe work-related injuries were reported.
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THE NEW REQUIREMENTS
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration now requires the reporting of any severe work-related injury. These are defined as hospitalizations, amputations or loss of an eye. Serious injuries must be reported within 24 hours and fatalities within 8 hours. These new rules were enacted with the hope that they would facilitate communication between employers and the agency so that hazards are eliminated and workers stay protected. Employers are still required to report workplace fatalities within eight hours.
FIRST YEAR RESULTS
During the first full year of the new program, 10,388 severe injuries were reported. This included 7,636 hospitalizations and 2,644 amputations. In most cases, OSHA was able to step in to provide guidance and help eliminate workplace hazards. In Illinois specifically, 9 fatalities were reported, along with 21 serious injuries.
Unfortunately, OSHA’s complete report indicates that as many as 50% of severe injuries are not being reported. Around 12,000 injury reports were expected during the first year. This conclusion was based on a variety of factors, including claim numbers provided by individual state workers’ compensation programs. Because under-reporting is suspected, OSHA plans to continue their outreach efforts, especially for smaller employers.
The report also indicates that in most cases, employers were compliant with suggestions from OSHA, with only a few disregarding recommendations. One manufacturer did attempt to conceal a room containing machinery from OSHA inspectors after a staffing agency reported a finger amputation.
Most of the 2015 reports were filed by large employers, mostly in the manufacturing and construction industries. Over 25% of hospitalization reports were filed by manufacturing sector employers and 19% came from the construction industry. Manufacturers accounted for over 55% of amputation reports filed to the agency.
WHY ARE EMPLOYERS NOT REPORTING?
So, why does OSHA believe that many employers are not responding? The construction and manufacturing industries have been subject to specific reporting requirements for some time, so they are accustomed to making such reports. Workers’ advocates believe that many employers outside of these industries simply are not aware of the rules.
Other employers might be avoiding reports because they believe the consequences will not be severe. Not only is non-reporting a violation of the law, but OSHA expects to cite more employers during the second year. The penalty for not reporting a severe injury was also raised from $1000 to $7000, with further increases expected. Those who suspect that an employer has not reported such an injury are urged to contact a Chicago workers’ comp attorney.
OSHA representatives have issued assurances that information gathered from reports will not be used for the purpose of issuing citations. Rather, this data will be utilized to provide recommendations that will help employers operate safely, so they can prevent future injuries. This does not, however, mean that employees cannot be found liable if they have violated any employee safety laws.
ILLINOIS EMPLOYERS AND INJURY REPORTING
As OSHA continues to evaluate the effectiveness of its reporting programs, Chicago workers’ comp attorneys will watch closely to evaluate whether work-related injuries do in-fact decrease. In Illinois, severe injuries must be reported via the Illinois OSHA hotline. Both public and private employers are required to report severe injuries within 24 hours of the incident. Illinois OSHA investigates any reported incidents within 24 hours and works with partner agencies to determine if a violation of any health or safety standard was responsible for the injury.
Illinois law also requires employers to provide workers’ compensation insurance for most employees, an issue which can be discussed with a Chicago workers’ comp attorney. Around 91% of Illinois employees are covered under workers’ compensation. Employers who fail to obtain insurance face fines of up to $500 per every day of noncompliance, with a $10,000 minimum penalty. Corporate officers are held liable if an organization fails to pay a penalty, which provides legal protection to injured parties.
Employees who have been involved in a serious workplace injury can consult with aChicago workers’ comp attorney to review considerations for an employer’s potential liability. If it is suspected that an employer has not appropriately reported a serious workplace injury or fatality to OSHA, this should also be discussed. Workplace injuries that are not considered serious are typically reported via an employer’s workers’ compensation carrier who, in turn, reports the injury to the state. Any and all workplace injuries, regardless of their severity should be reported to the employer. Failure to do so in a timely manner can prevent injured parties from receiving workers’ compensation benefits.