The Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act is a federal law established in 1970 to ensure a safe working environment for American employees. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is the federal agency charged with enforcing safe workplace regulations. The agency is primarily concerned with keeping the workplace safe and reducing injuries, illnesses and fatalities for American workers. One of the more well-known regulations OSHA enforces is the requirement that all employers notify OSHA when an employee is killed on the job or suffers a work-related hospitalization, amputation, or loss of an eye. A fatality must be reported within eight hours; an in-patient hospitalization, amputation, or loss of an eye must be reported within 24 hours.
Kendall Dunson, a Beasley Allen lawyer who handles workplace injury litigation, discovered in a recently filed case that the employer did not report his client’s arm amputation to OSHA. When Kendall informed OSHA of the employer’s failure to report the incident, he expected the agency to punish the employer for its failure to follow federal law. What Kendall discovered was surprising and disappointing.
After informing OSHA of the employer’s violation, Kendall received a letter from OSHA informing him it could not conduct an inspection because the incident occurred more than six months ago. More importantly, Kendall was also informed that there would be no punishment for the employer’s failure to notify OSHA of a reportable workplace injury. If the employer had informed OSHA of the injury, the agency would have dispatched an investigator to visit the site, document the scene and interview essential witnesses including Kendall’s client.
Additionally, OSHA would have determined if the employer violated any OSHA regulations and imposed a fine based on the results of the investigation. All of OSHA’s activities following notice of a reportable workplace injury are beneficial to Kendall’s client’s suit. The ability to capture the site and equipment in the condition it was in on the day of the incident is important. In this particular case, it is extremely important because the employer made changes to the equipment causing the injuries before suit was filed.
The inability of OSHA to investigate if more than six months have passed and the inability of OSHA to issue a fine based solely on the failure to give notice of a reportable injury will incentivize employers to conceal incidents from OSHA. The concealment of incidents from OSHA will affect the agency’s purpose of promoting safety in the workplace and will ultimately result in more injuries and fatalities for innocent American workers. Kendall responded to OSHA to express his concerns and he is committed to pursuing a change in the OSHA regulations to allow OSHA to punish employers for failing to follow federal laws.
I will update you on the progress of Kendall’s efforts in the case and with OSHA. If you have any questions, contact Kendall Dunson.
This story appears in the November 2020 issue of The Jere Beasley Report. For more like this, visit the Report online and subscribe.