OSHA's Severe Injury Reporting Program completed its first year of operation in December, 2015. OSHA issued its report on the impact of the Severe Injury Reporting Program in early 2016 and impressed us with the power of the information disclosed. We think it will impress you, too, so we put together a few of the key takeaways from that report. Let's start with a little background on the program.
Who the report covers. The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) Severe Injury Reporting Program comes under the aegis of OSHA and only covers 22 states. Another 26 states plus Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands have their own OSHA-approved state occupational safety and health laws. The OSHA report on the Severe Injury Reporting Program covers only the states that operate under the federal program.
The report covered businesses in a wide range of industries from a boat builder to a pharmaceutical manufacturer, a supermarket, and an erosion control firm.
OSHA states its program goal is to create safer workplaces. One of its main objectives toward that goal is for employers to examine their workplaces and injury incidents and work with OSHA experts to determine ways to prevent injuries from happening.
The key report findings. In its first year of operation, OSHA identified the following:
- 7,636 hospitalizations were due to workplace injuries. It will come as no surprise that of those hospitalizations, the manufacturing sector accounted for 26% of them while the construction industry accounted for 19% and transportation and warehousing accounted for 11% of hospitalizations. The following categories were each less than 10% of hospitalizations: oil/gas extraction; wholesale trade; healthcare and social assistance; administration/support and waste management; and retail trades. A catch-all "other" category came in at 16%.
- Amputation reports numbered 2,644, of which manufacturing held the highest percentage at a whopping 57%. Other industry sectors accounted for 4%-5% each of the total amputation reports, except that construction reported 10% of the total amputations and the "other" category amounted to 11%. That's a pretty stark comparison that underlines the dangerous nature of the manufacturing industry.
- The industries reporting the highest number of severe injuries are: (1) foundation, structure, and building exterior contractors: 391; (2) building equipment contractors: 343; (3) oil/gas drilling wells and support for oil/gas operations: 323. The postal service came in a surprising fifth place with 229 severe injuries while converted paper product manufacturing came in last (out of 25 industry categories) with only 94 severe injuries.
Impact of Severe Injury Reporting. OSHA touts the success of its first-year program with giving the agency the ability to investigate first-hand the immediate causes of accidents and whether hazards to employees remain after applying fixes. OSHA said that it may never have heard of most of these accidents without the reporting program in place. This is especially true of the oil and gas industries where OSHA has had very few opportunities for inspections until now.
Getting the word out. Soon after the requirement to report severe injuries went into effect in January 2015, OSHA's southeast region noticed an uptick in reports of fingertip amputations among employees using food slicers and grinders. OSHA's Atlanta-based team contacted employers in food services across eight states to tell them about the hazards of food slicers and grinders and to recommend simple and inexpensive ways they could make activities safer for their employees. They distributed a fact sheet on food slicers/grinders to 3,000 employers from local grocers to federal installations like military bases, prisons, and hospitals. They also placed an article on the issue in magazines. OSHA says that the new reporting system gave it the opportunity to react quickly to a problem and take steps to prevent injuries.
To learn more about the information gathered from the severe risk reporting (and to read some of the more interesting case examples cited by OSHA), read the agency's March 2016 report entitled "Year One of OSHA’s Severe Injury Reporting Program: An Impact Evaluation" which was the inspiration for this post.