Serious injury reports continue to drive OSHA inspections

By: Travis Rhoden

Publication: Workplace Safety Regulatory Alert

Date Posted: 06/06/2019

More unprogrammed, fewer programmed inspections from OSHA

In 2018, OSHA responded to over 11,000 reports of serious injuries (i.e., fatalities, hospitalizations, amputations, and losses of eye). Approximately 7,000 of these reports resulted in Rapid Response Investigations (RRI), while nearly 4,000 resulted in actual on-site inspections.

What does this mean for serious injury reports?

OSHA is spending more enforcement resources on unprogrammed activities, such as those initiated based on serious injury reports, and fewer on targeted enforcement, such as National and Local Emphasis Programs.

And, the agency shows no signs of changing course. For the FY 2020 budget proposal, the Agency is expecting similar numbers as the past couple of years.

Serious injury reports continue to drive OSHA inspections

When an injury report is made

When an employer learns of a work-related injury meeting the reporting criteria, the employer must promptly notify OSHA, who will obtain general information about the injury and the incident leading to it.

OSHA has a policy to “triage” reports that come in, to standardize which types of reports trigger an on-site investigation versus other types of interventions.

Three categories of reports

Currently, OSHA is putting the reports into three categories. The highest level category, which automatically trigger an on-site inspection, include:

  • All fatalities
  • The hospitalization of 2 or more employees
  • Imminent danger
  • History of similar hazards in past year
  • Hazards related to current OSHA emphasis programs
  • History of willful, repeat, or similar violations

The next category include reports that do not ?t into the “automatic” category, but do have other characteristics that OSHA considers serious, such as:

  • Employees still exposed to a hazard
  • Abatement timeline compared to how soon OSHA could inspect
  • Safety program failure, such as lockout/tagout
  • Lack of work rules
  • Combustible dust
  • Vulnerable employees involved (e.g., temporary workers, young workers, non-English speakers)
  • Referral from another government agency
  • Prior OSHA inspection history
  • Health hazard involvement, such as heat stress

In this second category, OSHA area offices are encouraged to conduct an inspection, but not required to do so.

When OSHA determines that no Category 1 or 2 situation exists, the Agency will conduct an RRI (investigation conducted over the phone and via mail).

Key to remember: OSHA inspections are continuing to be driven by reports of serious injuries. So, if you have such an injury, be prepared for an inspection. But, note, the more information you provide about corrective action, the less likely you are to have an inspection, except for situations that fall into the “automatic inspection” category.

About the author
Travis Rhoden - EH&S Editor

Travis is a senior editor with J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc. He specializes in safety management systems, job hazard analysis, machine guarding, storage rack safety, forklift training and OSHA inspections. 

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