OSHA’s Severe Injury Reporting Program: A Temporary Staffing Perspective

Last year, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration initiated a new reporting requirement that required more prompt reporting of sever work-related injuries or hospitalizations.

In 2014, 4,679 workers died on the job and tens of thousands of employees were injured. The reporting requirement that went into effect Jan. 1, 2015 was implemented to try and prevent work-related fatalities by taking a more proactive stance on investigating and solving on-the-job injuries. Too often, upon researching the cause of the fatality, OSHA found that some of the companies had a long history of severe injuries.

With the more stringent requirements, OSHA plans to focus compliance assistance and enforcement toward workplaces and fields that pose a greater risk for the employees. They also intend to work with employers to identify and eliminate some of the most serious dangers and hazards of the job.

The new requirement mandates that within 24 hours, employers in OSHA-covered states must report the following:

  • Work-related amputation
  • In-patient hospitalization
  • Loss of an eye.

Fatalities must still be reported within 24 hours.

Employers do not need to report motor vehicle accidents on public streets or highways, unless they took place in a construction zone, accidents that occurred on transportation systems like airplanes or buses, or incidents that involved hospitalization for testing or observation.

Employers must report all incidents, regardless of the employee’s employment status (including full-time employees as well as part-time and temporary employees under the employer’s supervision).

Interestingly, despite only 2 percent of the workforce being comprised of temporary workers, 6 percent of the sever injury reports involved temporary workers. Temporary workers are getting severely injured at three times the rate of permanent workers.

After one year of reporting, OSHA received 10,338 calls from states under the federally-run program about severe work-related injuries, including 7,636 hospitalization incidents and 2,644 amputations.

Some of the situations involving temporary workers were quite severe, and unfortunately, the client employers were not forthcoming with OSHA.   For example, after a staffing agency for a temporary worker reported the amputation of an employee’s finger, the supervising manufacturer tried to close and disguise the doors to the part of the manufacturing plant where the employee was injured.  This client actually went so far as to tell the workers on those lines to be quiet. As you might expect, this ruse didn’t work and inspectors discovered the room, where they found more machinery that could have caused injuries and amputations to other employees.

At another site, a temporary worker repeatedly requested fall protection, which he didn’t receive. After falling through the roof and receiving multiple fractures and injuries, the on-site employer waited three additional days to report the incident. During that time, the employer purchased the requested protection gear and instructed other employees to blame the victim for not wearing his PPE.

For those who might think it better to skip the reporting requirement, that decision could be extremely costly. For willingly choosing not to report, companies are seeing higher fines – one was assessed a penalty of $70,000.

Many other employers, though, who are choosing to report incidents and accidents have made drastic changes to their company’s incentive, reward and safety programs to educate workers about good work practices and prioritize safe work behaviors.

The fact that temporary workers are receiving severe injuries at three times the rate of permanent employees, makes it clear that staffing companies and their clients need to put greater emphasis on the safety of their workforce.   Failure of the staffing industry to bring this statistic in line will undoubtedly lead to even greater governmental oversight.

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