Employers Face Stiffer Fines for Not Reporting Severe Job Injuries

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NEW YORK—Employers are facing higher penalties for failing to report severe injuries and illnesses under a revised policy issued by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

OSHA officials remained concerned about employers failing to report under the agency's revised reporting rule, which went into effect last year and broadened a requirement to inform the agency of certain severe injuries and hospitalizations within 24 hours of management learning of the incidents. In 2015, employers reported 10,388 severe injuries — short of a 12,000-report projection, according to a report published by the agency in May.

Previously, the initial penalty for failing to report was $1,000, but the minimum penalty has increased to $5,000, with local OSHA area directors having discretion to raise that to $7,000 for deterrent purposes, according to a memorandum released in March. The rise in the non-reporting penalties comes ahead of a significantly larger increase in OSHA's civil penalty structure set to take effect by Aug.1, 2016.

The agency responded to 62 percent of the reports filed last year by asking employers to conduct their own incident investigations, known as Rapid Response Investigations.

The recent memo stated that if OSHA inspects a work site previously subject to a Rapid Response Investigation, the agency will not use the employer's internal investigation to cite conditions discovered by the employer during that investigation, as long as employees are not exposed to a serious hazard and the employer is taking diligent steps to correct the condition. However, many employers have already expressed doubts about whether OSHA will actually refrain from using this information.

Hedley Lawson, Contributing Editor
Managing Partner
Aligned Growth Partners, LLC
(707) 217-0979
hlawson@alignedgrowth.com
www.alignedgrowth.com