Expert urges caution in using new OSHA reporting portal

OSHA has launched a new web portal for employers to report fatalities, inpatient hospitalizations, and other severe injuries. But the advice from one lawyer who specializes in OSHA matters is “proceed with caution.”

Since January 2015, all employers have been required to report to OSHA all work-related inpatient hospitalizations, amputations, and losses of an eye within 24 hours, in addition to the requirement to report fatalities within 8 hours. The web portal opened earlier this month and represents the third way employers can report, in addition to calling the nearest area office or calling the OSHA toll free number.

Attorney Eric J Conn says there’s reason to be cautious about using the online method. Conn, who heads the OSHA Practice Group at Conn Maciel Carey, agrees that contacting the agency online is an easy, 24/7 way to report, but it has a number of drawbacks.

“First, the report-by-web portal appears to require more information than what OSHA requires when reports are made by telephone,” Conn says but adds that “the mere fact that the report is being made in a written format at all should give employers serious pause.

“Providing a detailed explanation about an incident that has just occurred only a short time earlier, for which a thorough investigation could not yet have been completed, is a risky endeavor,” he says.

That’s because any information employers provide to OSHA can later be used against them as an admission in an enforcement proceeding.

Based on these concerns, Conn recommends using the “old-fashioned” telephone to report injuries and fatalities. OSHA also offers a web portal for filing whistleblower retaliation complaints.

Safety BLR

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