Dr. David Michaels
Assistant Secretary of Labor
for Occupational Safety and Health
Press Call on Updated Occupational Injury and Illness Reporting and Recording Requirements
1:30 p.m. EDT Thursday, Sept. 11, 2014
[as prepared for delivery]
Good afternoon and thank you for joining me. I am Dr. David Michaels and it is my great honor to announce OSHA's final rule expanding requirements for employers to notify OSHA when a worker is killed on the job, or suffers a work related hospitalization, amputation or loss of an eye. The new rule also updates the list of employers partially exempt from OSHA recordkeeping requirements. These new updates will go into effect for employers in states covered by federal OSHA on January 1, 2015.
Earlier today, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 4,405 workers were killed on the job in 2013. 4,405 on the job deaths is 4,405 too many. We can and must do better. OSHA's new requirement to report severe injuries and illnesses will assist employers, workers and OSHA to prevent future injuries by identifying and eliminating the most serious workplace hazards - ones that have already caused injuries to occur.
With this revised rule, OSHA will now receive reports from employers whose workers were killed or suffered severe work-related injuries and illnesses. This will significantly enhance OSHA's ability to target our resources to prevent further injuries and save lives. The data from these new reports will enable OSHA to better identify workplaces where workers are at the greatest risk and to target our compliance assistance and enforcement resources accordingly. This new rule will help establish a new relationship between OSHA and employers whose employees have been seriously injured.
The revised rule includes two key updates:
First, we are updating the list of industries that are exempt from routinely keeping OSHA injury and illness records. I want to make it clear, that even though we have updated the list of exempt industries -- the new rule maintains the recordkeeping exemption for any firm with ten or fewer employees regardless of their industry classification.
Regarding the new list of employers that are exempt from routinely keeping records, employers in these industries are exempt because the industries have relatively low occupational injury and illness rates. Since 1982, this list has included establishments in finance, insurance, real estate, and parts of the retail and service industries.
The new list of exempt industries is based on Bureau of Labor Statistics data from 2007 through 2009, replacing a list developed using data from the 1990s. In addition, we have transitioned from the old Standard Industrial Classification (or SIC) system to the North American Industry Classification System (or NAICS). NAICS is the standard widely used by Federal statistical agencies -- such as the BLS and others -- for the purpose of collecting, analyzing and publishing data on business establishments. SIC codes are rarely used anymore -- NAICS is the modern industry classification system used throughout the government. Updating to NAICS also fulfills a commitment OSHA made in the 2001 revision to the recordkeeping rule as well as a 2009 commitment we made to the Government Accountability Office.
Second, we are updating the requirements for reporting work-related fatality, injury, and illness information to OSHA. Currently, employers in states covered by federal OSHA are required to report all work-related fatalities and hospitalizations of three or more employees within eight hours of the event. The revised rule retains the requirement to notify OSHA of all work related fatalities within 8 hours and adds a new requirement for employers to report all work-related in-patient hospitalizations, amputations and losses of an eye, within 24 hours of the event. Employers can report these events by telephone or in person to the OSHA Area Office that is nearest to the site of the incident, by calling OSHA's toll-free number, 1-800-321-OSHA (1-800-321-6742), or through an electronic form that will soon be available on OSHA's public website (www.osha.gov).
Hospitalizations and amputations are sentinel events, indicating that serious hazards are likely to be present at a workplace, and an intervention is warranted to protect other workers at the establishment. Too often, we learn of a worker being killed or seriously injured, and when we inspect, we learn that one or more workers have already suffered serious injuries at that establishment.
Last year, OSHA was notified after a worker was struck and killed when he entered a large wire mesh manufacturing machine to retrieve a fallen metal bar. The worker killed was 32 year old Luis Rey Rivera Pavia - he was the sole supporter of his mother, who lives in a small village in Mexico. His death should never have occurred. The light curtain that would have automatically turned the machine off before he entered the danger zone had been disabled. During our inspection, OSHA learned that previously, two other workers at that same factory had been severely injured on this same piece of machinery - one worker suffered an amputation and the second had his right forearm crushed by that same machine. Earlier this year, we issued a fine of almost $700,000 against Wire Mesh Sales, of Jacksonville, Florida. However, I believe that if we had been notified after that amputation, or after his co-worker was hospitalized with a crushed forearm, Mr. Rivera might be alive today.
We expect to be notified of many hospitalizations and amputations. We are not going to send an inspector to respond to every one of these. But, we will engage with the employers whose workers have been hurt. Right now, we are developing a process to determine which incidents to inspect and which to handle using other types of investigations and interventions.
This rule is an example of the application of behavioral economics to worker safety. When an employer notifies us of a severe injury among its workers, we will ask what caused the injury and what the employer intends to do to address the hazard and prevent future injuries. That employer will then be on notice that OSHA knows about that severe injury, and will have made the commitment to address the hazard. 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.
This rule has other important benefits. OSHA currently receives little information about serious non-fatal injuries, and these new data will help us better allocate agency resources and assess the adequacy of our standards. For example, the reports on amputations will provide us with information to better focus the scope of our Amputation prevention inspection program, and evaluate possible deficiencies of our machine guarding standards. It will also help us better target employers and industries that need the assistance of our free on-site consultation program.
These new reports of severe injuries and illnesses will all be public, on the OSHA website, providing employers, workers, researchers and the public more information about workplace safety and health, and steps that need to be taken to prevent future injuries. Since no employer wants their workplace to be known as an unsafe place, we believe that the possibility of public reporting of serious injuries will encourage - or, in the behavioral economics term "nudge" employers to take steps to prevent injuries so they are not seen as unsafe places to work. After all, if you had a choice of applying for a job at a workplace where a worker had recently lost a hand, versus one where no amputations had occurred - which would you choose?
Regarding the changes in the list of industries now required to maintain injury and illness records, we plan extensive outreach and coordination with employers, particularly small businesses, trade associations whose members may be new to recordkeeping, unions and worker centers. We will notify establishments in industries that are new to keeping OSHA logs, explaining their new obligations and where to find resources to help them. These resources include tutorials, information fact sheets and FAQs on our new recordkeeping webpage.
Establishments located in states under Federal OSHA jurisdiction must begin to comply with the new recordkeeping requirements on January 1, 2015. Establishments located in states that operate their own safety and health programs (State Plan States) should check with their state plan for the implementation date of the new requirements. We encourage these states to implement the new coverage provisions on January 1, 2015, or if they are not able to meet this date, as soon as they can.
Returning to the new reporting requirements, OSHA will also now provide an opportunity for employers to report fatalities and severe injuries to OSHA electronically. This will be in addition to the methods of in-person or phone notification currently available to employers - by calling the toll-free OSHA hotline or notifying the nearest OSHA Area office.
Updating OSHA requirements on reporting on work-related injuries and illnesses is long overdue. We believe that the new, more cohesive and comprehensive reporting system will benefit all employers and workers, and will contribute to lower injury rates.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that employers experience nearly four million serious occupational injuries and illnesses each year. Recordable workplace injuries range in severity from those requiring care beyond simply first aid (injuries receiving only first aid are not recordable) to fatal injuries. Nearly half of all recordable injuries are sufficiently serious to require a day away from work, job transfer or restriction for recovery.
We believe this updated rule will help reduce this unacceptably high number of injuries. The updated recordkeeping and reporting requirements are not simply paperwork but have an important, in fact life-saving purpose: they will enable employers and workers to prevent future injuries by identifying and eliminating the most serious workplace hazards - ones that have already caused injuries to occur.
We recognize that improving recordkeeping and reporting requirements is an ongoing process. In an effort for continuous improvement, we plan an assessment of the new requirements, with extensive public engagement.
Again, thank you for joining me and for your interest in protecting workers. We are excited about this rule and how it will help us - OSHA, employers, workers and the public - better identify and abate preventable workplace hazards in an effort to meet our shared goal of providing safe workplaces for all workers.
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