Responding to Workplace Injuries: OSHA

April 10, 2018

Unfortunately, employers cannot prevent all injuries from occurring in the workplace. Employers must continuously review their safety policies and practices to ensure the safety of their employees and make sure their supervisors know how to speedily and appropriately respond to injuries in the workplace. There are three steps employers should take when responding to workplace injuries.

Develop and Follow Safety Protocol

Your company should have a clear standards and procedures for dealing with safety and injuries in the workplace. These standards should be clearly displayed at every worksite and included in your employee handbook. Ideally, a safety policy should require employees to use good judgment and common sense in the workplace, as well as observe and adhere to all safety rules posted in the workplace and those imposed and enforced by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The policy should also require employees to report workplace injuries and safety hazards immediately, whether they are involved in an accident or not.

Reporting procedures identified in safety policies cannot deter or discourage reporting. In this regard OSHA has explained that employers maintaining safety policies that require drug and alcohol testing following an injury or illness, without consideration of whether drugs or alcohol was actually involved, may be subject to penalty. Therefore, employers desiring to test employees involved in a work-related incident, must limit their safety policies to require testing only in situations where drug or alcohol use likely contributed to the incident.

Employers should also use these policies as guidelines for evaluating employee performance. Violations of OSHA’s safety regulations can result in steep penalties for employers and unimaginable costs for employees. Although it is unlawful for an employer to retaliate against an employee for reporting an injury or complaining about safety in the workplace, it is not unlawful for an employer to discipline an employee for failing to follow safety policies and procedures. Where an employee has clearly violated safety policies, procedures, or regulations, employers should document the violation in the employee’s personnel file and, where appropriate, discipline the violating employee.

In addition to displaying an employer’s own safety policies, employers subject to OSHA regulations must post OSHA’s safety poster in a place that is clearly visible to employees. Farming operations, in most instances, are subject to OSHA regulations. The “small farm exception” is a noteworthy exception to this, which covers farming operations with 10 or fewer non-family employees that has not maintained a temporary labor camp within the preceding 12 months. Employers may download the safety poster from OSHA’s website in English and nine other languages.

Get the Facts

Employers are obligated by law to report certain work-related injuries to OSHA in a specified period of time. The shortest reporting window employers have is upon the death of an employee, which requires the employer to report the death to OSHA within 8 hours. Because of this short timeframe, supervisors must tell the company’s human resources and/or safety manager about any injury immediately and complete an injury report as soon as realistically feasible. It is recommended that employers develop a form that supervisors may use to gather this information quickly and efficiently from the injured employee and any witnesses.

Identify OSHA Requirements

The next step is to determine whether the injury is a recordable injury that must be reported to OSHA. The administration defines recordable injuries and illnesses as the following:

  1. Death
  2. Loss of consciousness, days away from work, resulting in restricted work, or requiring transfer to another job
  3. Requires medical treatment beyond first aid
  4. Results in diagnosis of cancer, chronic irreversible diseases
  5. Results in fractured or cracked bones or teeth
  6. Punctures eardrum(s)

29 C.F.R. § 1904.7(a). Depending on the injury, an employer may be required to report the injury within hours. As discussed above, deaths must be reported within 8 hours and in-patient hospitalizations, amputations, and eye loss must be reported within 24 hours. Employers must also record and report work-related needlestick injuries, contracted tuberculosis, medical removal, and hearing loss. All injuries subject to reporting requirements must be reported to OSHA via OSHA Form 300A within seven (7) days of their occurrence, except those discussed above with 8 or 24 hour reporting requirements.

Co-written by Brittany R. King-Asamoa

This information is general in nature and should not be construed for tax or legal advice.