Under the US Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), employers are subject to strict reporting requirements if a “work-related incident” causes an employee:
The general rule is that work-related fatalities must be reported within eight hours after they occur, while hospitalizations, amputations and eye losses must be reported within 24 hours.
But like most OSHA regulations, the details matter. Figuring out whether and when your business is (or was) required to report an incident – and how to go about reporting it – often requires an OSHA compliance lawyer to consider the circumstances around the incident, and the regulation’s exceptions, safe harbors, and agency interpretations.
This is a straightforward issue – ALL employers must report deaths and serious injuries to OSHA even if they are otherwise exempt from other OSHA requirements because of their workforce size (e.g., under 10 employees) or industry.
OSHA gives businesses three options:
If your local OSHA office is closed when you need to make a report – for example, after business hours or during a weekend or holiday – you must use the OSHA hotline or website.
The information OSHA requires in the initial report is pretty basic:
Although the basic deadlines are eight hours for an employee death and 24 hours for a hospitalization, amputation or loss of eye, there’s often an issue around knowledge — I.e., when did the employer find out about the incident. In cases where no manager or other authorized agent of an employer finds out about a reportable incident until after the applicable deadlines, OSHA rules provide that the time periods begin to run once a manager or agent has that knowledge. In other words, an employee fatality must be reported to OSHA within eight hours after the employer’s management or agent learns of the death. Similarly, a work-related hospitalization, amputation or eye loss must be reported to OSHA within 24 hours after a manager or agents learns of them.
The OSHA reporting requirements apply even if there is a delay between the work-related incident and its ultimate results. A fatality is reportable if it occurs within 30 days after a work-related incident that caused the employee’s death. Similarly, a hospitalization, amputation or eye loss is reportable if it occurs within 24 hours after the work-related incident causing it.
A reportable hospitalization is an employee’s formal admission for an in-patient stay at a hospital for care and treatment. A hospitalization that takes place solely in the emergency room, or an in-patient stay solely for testing and observation, does not qualify as a reportable hospitalization.
OSHA regulations define an amputation as
“the traumatic loss of a limb or other external body part” including “a limb or appendage, that has been severed, cut off, amputated (either completely or partially); fingertip amputations with or without bone loss; medical amputations resulting from irreparable damage; amputations of body parts that have since been reattached.”
Amputations do not include avulsions, enucleations, deglovings, scalpings, severed ears, or broken or chipped teeth.
Fatalities and injuries arising from vehicle accidents create additional wrinkles in the general OSHA reporting rule:
If a work-related fatality, hospitalization, amputation or eye loss occurs as a result of an incident or accident on a commercial or public transportation system (airplane, train, subway, or bus), the employer is NOT required to report it to OSHA.
The employer must, however, record the fatality or injury in its OSHA records (if the employer is otherwise required to maintain OSHA records).