Recently, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced a final rule changing requirements for reporting severe injuries and fatalities. The rule also modifies OSHA’s exemptions from its record-keeping requirements. The new rule takes effect January 1, 2015.

In most circumstances, there is no obligation to notify OSHA when there is an injury or illness incurred at work. Employers are required to log work-related injuries and illnesses on OSHA forms. OSHA does inspect those logs when they conduct workplace investigations. But, in most cases there is no general obligation to notify OSHA when an employee becomes ill or injured at work except in two instances.

Employers do have an obligation to notify OSHA within eight (8) hours if there is a fatality at work. Even though the obligation relates to “work-related” fatalities, OSHA interprets the obligation broadly and requires, for example, that every heart attack that occurs at the workplace must be reported, even if the employer feels circumstances suggest there was no work causation. Under the old OSHA regulation, the other circumstance under which an employer was required to notify OSHA was if a single workplace accident resulted in in-patient hospitalization of three or more workers. In that case, notice to OSHA was required within 24 hours.

OSHA’s revised rule keeps intact the obligation to notify OSHA of work-related fatalities within eight (8) hours. The new rule expands the obligation for notice to OSHA of other kinds of workplace incidents. Under the new rule, employers will be required to notify OSHA within 24 hours if a workplace incident results in any in-patient hospitalization, regardless of how many employees are affected, and also in the case of any amputation or the loss of an eye.

The new rule does not change OSHA’s basic obligations for record-keeping. Employers with 10 or fewer employees are still exempt from the basic OSHA record-keeping requirements. However, OSHA has updated the list of specific industries that are exempt from the requirement to keep routine injury and illness records. Certain low-hazard industries have always been exempt from the basic record-keeping requirements. The new rule establishes a new list of exempt industries. The basic OSHA record-keeping requirements will now be extended to some industries that were previously exempt. The list of newly-covered industries includes, but is not limited to, automobile dealers, many retailers, industries providing services to buildings and dwellings, and various amusement and recreation industries. The changes are a result of OSHA switching from reliance on the old Standard Industrial Classification system over to the new North American Industry Classification System.