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April 5th, 2016

Philadelphia, PA & NJ Work Injury Lawyers Examine OSHA’s Report of the Severe Injury Reporting Program

A recent report released by OSHA last month on March 17, 2016 revealed that there were 10,388 severe injuries caused by workplace accidents in 2015.  This averaged to about 30 severe work-related injuries a day.   The report was based on data OSHA collected from 26 states that have higher safety standards than those mandated by federal regulations.  Pennsylvania and New Jersey were 2 of the 26 states.

Of the 10,388 severe injuries in the 26 surveyed states, 7,636 of them led to hospitalizations, and 2,644 led to amputations.  There were even a handful of serious injuries that resulted in workers losing an eye.

The report further revealed that the manufacturing industry had the highest proportion of accidents.  It accounted for 57% of amputations and 26% of hospitalizations.  Other industries with high rates of accidents and serious injuries were construction, warehousing, transportation, as well as, gas and oil extraction.

OSHA’s Serious Injury Reporting Regulations

The report was released as a result of OSHA’s new reporting regulations that took effect on January 1, 2015.  Prior to January 1, 2015, employers and companies were required to report all work accident fatalities within 8 hours and also had to report all hospitalizations involving 3 or more injured workers to OSHA.  Thus, OSHA did not have timely information about where and how most serious injuries were occurring, which limited how OSHA could respond or improve workplace safety.

As of January 1, 2015, employers and companies must report serious workplace accidents to OSHA within 24 hours.  Serious workplace injuries include amputation, hospitalization or loss of an eye.  Employers may report directly to an OSHA field office, to the OSHA toll free number, or via an online form.  The requirement of reporting fatalities within 8 hours was unchanged.

OSHA found that prior to the new regulations, employers who were investigated for fatal work accidents often had a history of serious work injuries. The goals of the regulations were to help OSHA identify problem industries, encourage employers to evaluate their own processes and equipment, reduce the number of serious injuries and fatalities and improve workplace safety.

The report found that most of the hazards that led to the severe injuries can be easily prevented.  In addition, they also accounted for a majority of work-related fatalities.  For example, many serious injuries occurred due to fall accidents.  Employers can prevent fall accidents which often lead to serious injuries or death by providing fall protection equipment.

More than 50% of Injuries Not Reported, According to OSHA

Despite the new reporting regulations, OSHA believes that more than 50% of all injuries may not have been reported in 2015.  OSHA based this conclusion on several factors.

First, OSHA examined the injury claim numbers provided by state workers’ compensation programs.  The number of claims was much higher than the number of injuries reported.

Second, the majority of the first year reports were filed by large employers.  Thus, OSHA believes small and mid-sized companies may not be aware of the new reporting requirement.

Lastly, OSHA believes some employers are not reporting serious injuries because employers believe that costs associated with not reporting injuries are low.  Despite what employers believe, OSHA said that it is likely to cite more employers for not reporting serious injuries in 2016.  In addition, OSHA recently increased the penalty for not reporting from $1,000 to $7,000.

Other employers don’t report severe injuries because they are actively trying to hide unsafe work conditions. According to OSHA, in one instance, a manufacturer prevented investigators from entering the building by blocking the entrance with a parked forklift.

If OSHA learns that an employer knew about the reporting requirement and chose not to report a severe injury, the penalty will be much higher.  OSHA recently cited an employer for willfully failing to report a severe injury.  The employer was cited $70,000 in penalties.

Injured Workers’ Legal Rights in Philadelphia, PA and NJ

After workers in PA and NJ sustain a severe injury, such as an amputation, they have legal rights.  First, they are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits which include medical benefits and lost wages.  However, it is important to know that injured workers do not receive 100% of their lost wages.  They only receive a portion of it.  See Pennsylvania Work Accidents & Claims for Lost Pay/Wages; New Jersey Work Injuries & Accidents: Financial Compensation for Union Workers & Laborers

In addition to filing workers’ compensation claims, injured workers may also have legal rights against third parties.  If a machine operator working in a warehouse in Philadelphia was injured while operating a machine, he may have legal rights against the machine manufacturer. For instance, if the machine operator’s finger was amputated due to a defective design of the machine, he may sue the machine manufacturer.

Under both PA and NJ’s workers’ compensation laws, employees are generally prohibited from suing their employers for work-related injuries and accidents.  However, there are exceptions to this rule in both PA and NJ.  Therefore, it is best that injured workers consult work injury lawyers in PA or NJ to explore their legal rights.

Our work accident and injury lawyers are licensed in PA and NJ.  Our main office is located in Philadelphia, PA, and we also have offices in Montgomery County, PA.  If you were injured in New Jersey, we also have offices throughout New Jersey (Cherry Hill, Atlantic City and Iselin).

We always offer FREE consultations.  Call (866) 641-0806.

*Source: www.OSHA.gov (Year One of OSHA’s Severe Injury Reporting Program: An Impact Evaluation)

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