What Happens After an Injury is Reported to OSHA?

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Investigation

Not every injury report to OSHA results in an onsite inspection.

When an injury is reported to OSHA the level of follow up depends on a number of factors.  The following information is taken from OSHA’s Revised Interim Enforcement Procedures for Reporting Requirements under 29 C.F.R. 1904.39.

OSHA has a triage system based on categories contained in above-referenced memorandum.

After OSHA receives an employer report and has obtained the necessary information, the Area Director or his/her designee must determine whether to conduct an inspection or an Rapid Response Investigation (RRI).

Employer reports will fall into one of three categories:  Category 1 – reports that require an OSHA inspection; Category 2 – reports that may result in either an inspection or an RRI; Category 3 – reports that result in an RRI.

NOTE: There are some instances in which the Area Director may decide that based on all available information there is no factual basis for concluding that a violation or hazard exists. Neither an inspection nor an RRI would be conducted.

Below are the criteria and explanation for each of the three categories:

  1. Category 1

An employer report is identified as Category 1 and an inspection will be conducted by OSHA, if any one of the conditions below is reported:

  1. Fatalities and reports of 2 or more in-patient hospitalizations;
  2. Any injury involving a worker under 18.
  3. The employer has a history of the same or similar hazards or incidents within the past 12 months;
  4. Repeat offenders (history of egregious, willful, failure-to-abate, or repeated citations; and employer on SVEP).
  5. Report of a hazard covered by a local, regional, or national emphasis program.
  6. Any imminent danger.
  1. Category 2

An employer report is identified as Category 2, if it does not involve any of the conditions described in Category 1. For Category 2 reports, the Area Director has the discretion to determine whether an inspection or an RRI will be conducted. This determination is based on the Area Director’s knowledge of the circumstances of the event and consideration of the following factors:

  1. Have the work conditions that resulted in the employer report of injury or illness been corrected?  If so, what were the corrective measures taken and how quickly were they implemented?
    1. Can complete abatement of the reported workplace condition be implemented before an inspection is conducted?
    2. Are other employees still exposed to the hazard that resulted in the reported injury, illness or fatality?  If so, how many employees?
    3. Was the work related incident the result of a safety program failure such as Permit- Required Confined Space, Lockout/Tagout, Process Safety Management as examples.
    4. Does the employer have work rules/procedures that address the hazard/incident?  If so, were the work rules/procedures followed?  If not, why not.
    5. How are the work rules/procedures communicated to employees and how are the work rules/procedures enforced?
    6. Did the work related incident involve a serious hazard such as explosive materials, combustible dust or falls?
    7. Did the report of injury or illness involve temporary workers or other vulnerable employees?
    8. Has another government agency (federal, state, or local) made a referral regarding reported incident/hazard?
    9. Does the employer have prior OSHA inspection history?
    10. Any Whistleblower complaint/investigation involving the employer?
    11. Is the employer a Cooperative Program Participant, e.g., VPP, OSHA Strategic partnerships, SHARP or an active Alliance member? (Note:  Area Offices should follow existing procedures for reporting fatalities involving employers in these programs.)
    12. Did the work related incident involve a health hazard such as chemical or heat stress exposures?

Additional criteria particular to the hazard/incident may be considered by the Area Director. Based on an evaluation of the information obtained in response to the above questions, the Area Director will decide whether an on-site inspection or an RRI is appropriate.

  1. Category 3

When the Area Director (or his or her designee) determines that based on the criteria discussed above an employer report does not warrant an inspection, an RRI will be conducted. RRIs will be conducted consistent with the protocols described below.

  1. Inspection/ RRI Procedures
    1. Procedures for a Category 1 and 2 Inspection

After the Area Director (or his or her designee) determines that an employer report falls within Category 1, an onsite inspection will be conducted. Similarly, if the Area Director (or his or her designee) determines that an employer report falls within Category 2, and an inspection by OSHA is warranted, an inspection will be conducted. If the Area Director (or his or her designee) determines that an employer report is Category 2 but based on an evaluation of the incident information that an onsite OSHA inspection is not warranted, an RRI will be conducted in accordance with procedures below.

OSHA inspections will begin, resources permitting, within five working days (except for fatalities and catastrophes) of receipt of the employer report. RRIs will begin, resources permitting, within one day after receipt of the employer report.

Our next OSHA – related blog will outline how a Rapid Response Investigation is conducted.

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