The data from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s new severe injury reporting requirement is in — and the results are decidedly mixed.
On Jan. 1, 2015, a new regulation took effect that, for the first time, mandated that employers report severe injuries including hospitalizations, amputations and eye loss to OSHA. Now with a year of reporting wrapped up, OSHA has released its analysis of how employers — from manufacturers, to oil and gas operators, construction workers, retail outlets and more — handle horrific accidents.
In many cases, OSHA followed up the reports with an investigation. But the agency allowed most employers to conduct their own investigation into the incident and propose a plan for safety improvements. Many rose to the task — others, however, tried to hide the reality behind the incidents from OSHA investigators.
Here’s a look at how it unfolded, by the numbers.
10, 388 = The number of new severe work-related injury reports OSHA received in 2015. The reports included 7,636 hospitalizations and 2,644 amputations.
57 percent = The percentage of amputation reports that came from manufacturing — more than any other industry. Construction had the second highest amount of amputation reports (10 percent). Manufacturing also accounted for the most hospitalization reports, but not by as wide of a margin (26 percent). Construction again came in second for hospitalizations (19 percent) while transportation and warehousing came in third (11 percent).
50 percent = The amount of severe injuries that OSHA believes were not reported, an estimation based partially on injury claim numbers provided by state workers’ compensation programs.
$1,000-$7,000 = Additional penalties OSHA can add for non-reporting. Penalties are expected to increase after new citation levels approved by Congress take effect.
Yet, many still avoid notifying OSHA, perhaps thinking that the cost of not reporting will be low. As an example, OSHA detailed this incident:
In one stunning example, a manufacturer tried to conceal an entire production line from OSHA inspectors after a staffing agency reported the amputation of a worker’s finger. When inspectors arrived, the employer closed interior doors and parked forklifts in front of them, then turned off the lights and told workers to be quiet.
OSHA also noted this incident:
OSHA inspectors learned through witnesses that a temporary worker had asked in vain for fall protection before he fell through the roof on a construction project, sustaining multiple fractures and other severe injuries. An investigation found that, rather than immediately report the incident, the employer delayed three days while he bought the fall protection gear and coached other workers to claim they’d had it all along. They were told to blame the victim for not wearing it.
62 percent = The amount of reports OSHA did not follow up with by launching an investigation to check compliance. Instead, in those cases the agency allowed the employer to investigate and boost safety protocols. Many made substantial and impressive improvements.
Here’s one story:
At a sawmill in Idaho, a chipper operator’s arm was amputated after he tried to clear a jam in a conveyor. In response, the owner closed the sawmill for a week and made improvements that went far beyond what OSHA required, including installing electrical shut-offs within easy reach of all workers, placing catwalks around the entire mill, and providing handheld radios for all employees to improve communications.
In another instance, OSHA noted how a worker suffered heat exhaustion and was hospitalized, and the employer responded by providing more frequent water breaks and new cooling fans.
30 = The amount of work-related injuries OSHA estimates happens every day. While the numbers are high, OSHA is optimistic that this new reporting requirement is going a long way in encouraging employers to make safety a bigger priority to protect workers.