With the number of on-site inspections and citations declining during the 2020 pandemic, it appeared that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration began issuing more citations for recordkeeping-related non-compliance. In the past, when OSHA requested copies of an employer’s OSHA 300 Logs and OSHA 300A Annual Summary forms, it gave employers a few days to produce copies along with other requested non-recordkeeping documents. Since the pandemic, OSHA has begun to issue more citations for failure to produce the requested Logs and Annual Summaries within four business hours, as required under § 1904.40.
OSHA also began to issue citations if an employer did not “double report” cases involving an admission to a hospital followed by a fatality. Under § 1904.39(a)(1), an employer must report a work-related fatality within eight hours of learning of it. But what if an employer had already reported within the required 24-hour period that an employee had been admitted to a hospital for a work-related injury or illness, and then the employee dies? Is the employer obligated to call OSHA a second time? OSHA’s Area Offices took the position that a second call to OSHA was required and have issued citations with proposed penalties of up to $9,639.
But a new Interpretation Letter (dated January 8 but published only recently) is a win for common sense. The rationale of the Letter is that once OSHA has been advised of a case that was serious enough to require an employee to be admitted to a hospital, the agency is already in a position to seek information about the conditions that led to the admission and to decide whether an inspection is needed. If OSHA is advised of the hospital admission, the employer’s failure to make a second call to OSHA when the employee dies does not impede the agency’s ability to conduct an inspection.
When you report a case to OSHA, be prepared for the possibility of an inspection. If OSHA conducts an inspection, the Compliance Officer will typically request the present year’s OSHA 300 Log, as well as Logs and OSHA 300A Annual Summaries from the past three to five years. The agency will expect to receive those documents within four business hours of the request. Part of your preparation for an inspection should be gathering and reviewing those Logs and Annual Summaries.
It is important to know when you have to report a work-related case to OSHA and when you do not. And now it has been clarified that you do not have to double-report a hospitalization that later becomes a fatality. You will have to record the fatality on the OSHA 300 Log, but if the case is first reported as involving an admission to a hospital, you do not have to make a second call.
This bulletin applies to employers who do business in federal OSHA jurisdictions. Although many state OSHAs will rely on such Interpretation Letters, not every State Plan state does.