BREAKING: Cal/OSHA Overhauls Reporting Requirements for Serious Injuries

By Andrew Sommer and Megan Shaked

The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) just announced major changes to the definition of “serious injury or illness” for purposes of California employers’ duty to report certain serious workplace injuries to Cal/OSHA.  Pursuant to Cal. Labor Code Sec. 6409.1(b), in every case involving a work related death or a serious injury or illness, the employer must “immediately” make a report to Cal/OSHA.  Employers may be cited and subject to penalties for failure to make such reports, and reporting such incidents almost always leads to a site inspection by Cal/OSHA, which in turn most often results in Serious or Serious Accident-Related citations.

Cal/OSHA’s prior, longstanding reporting rule defined “serious injury or illness” as any injury or illness occurring in a place of employment or in connection with any employment that requires in-patient hospitalization for a period in excess of 24 hours for treatment other than medical observation, or in which an employee suffers a loss of any member of the body or suffers any serious degree of permanent disfigurement.  The old definition excluded injuries or deaths caused by the commission of a Penal Code violation (e.g., an intentional assault and battery), or an auto accident on a public street or highway.

On August 30, 2019, California passed Assembly Bill (AB) 1805 to revise the definition of a “serious injury or illness” for reporting purposes. The changes appear to be designed to bring Cal/OSHA’s reporting requirement more (but not entirely) in line with fed OSHA’s hospitalization and amputation reporting rule.  Specifically, Cal/OSHA’s new reporting requirements: Continue reading

Reporting In-Patient Hospitalizations to OSHA: Common Misunderstandings and Mistakes

By Eric J. Conn and Lindsay A. DiSalvo

The regulatory requirement at 29 C.F.R. 1904.39, OSHA’s Fatality and Serious Injury Reporting Rule, which requires employers to report to OSHA certain in-patient hospitalizations, may seem straightforward, but there are several nuances employers routinely miss that affect the determination whether a hospitalization is actually reportable to OSHA.

Although failing to timely report a reportable hospitalization can be cited, and could set up an employer for costly Repeat violations, over-reporting has its own significant consequences.  Reporting hospitalizations very often triggers an on-site enforcement inspection, and OSHA issues a citation approximately 75% of the time it conducts an inspection (with an even higher percentage for incident-related inspections).  Moreover, at least 85% of OSHA citations are characterized as Serious, Repeat or Willful, and OSHA’s civil penalty authority has skyrocketed by 80% in the past two years.  Accordingly, it is critical that employers understand the intricacies of what makes an employee’s visit to the hospital a reportable event, and conversely, what does not, so as to avoid unnecessary and costly reports to OSHA.

As we outlined in a prior article discussing OSHA’s updated Fatality and Serious Injury Reporting Rule, under the current reporting requirements, employers must:

“within 24 hours after the in-patient hospitalization of one or more employees [that occurs within 24 hours of the work-related incident] . . . report the in-patient hospitalization . . . to OSHA.”

This is a significant change from the prior reporting rule, which required a report to OSHA only if three or more employees were hospitalized overnight.  It was extraordinarily rare that a single workplace incident resulted in the overnight hospitalization of three or more workers, and so the instances of reporting under that rule were infrequent.  The new rule, however, requires a report to OSHA for the hospitalization of a single employee, which has opened the door to thousands more incidents that must be evaluated for possible reporting.

Although the current regulation has increased the number of employee hospitalizations that are being reported to OSHA, many of those incidents reported to OSHA did not actually meet the criteria for reporting, based on a very particular definition of hospitalization and a limited time period for when the hospitalization must occur.  In other words, many incidents are being reported to OSHA (effectively inviting OSHA to conduct a site enforcement inspection) that should not have been reported at all.

What Is an “In-Patient Hospitalization”? Continue reading