When you suffer an accident on the job, it’s crucial to report it as soon as possible. If you have a union at work, you should also contact your union representative. As an employee, you may be wondering whether work-related accidents are reportable to other agencies. What if there is a workplace safety issue? When to call OSHA for a work injury?
In some situations, your employer has a duty to report workplace accidents and fatalities to OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Some employers may be hesitant about notifying OSHA because they worry about workplace safety violations and fines. If you sustained injuries at your workplace, speak with an experienced California injury lawyer at Henderson Law as soon as possible.
Reportable Injuries—When to Call OSHA for a Work Injury?
All employers must notify OSHA when an employee dies on the job or suffers a work-related amputation, hospitalization, eye damage, or other permanent disfiguration. Other examples include poisoning that requires hospitalization or involves damaged bodily organs. If you sustain severe injuries on the job, report them to your managers right away. Sometimes, management may not be aware of the injury if you are working offsite somewhere.
OSHA’s Incident Reporting Requirements
It’s essential to familiarize yourself with OSHA’s incident reporting requirements, as they may differ in California versus other states. Employers must report serious injuries or illnesses to Cal/OSHA in California. Employers must contact the nearest Director’s Office of Cal/OSHA immediately, which means as soon as possible after the incident. However, it should not be longer than eight hours after the employer knew or should’ve known about the injury. If the employer can show that circumstances prevented them from reporting an incident within the deadline, they may extend the reporting time frame.
You can report the injury or illness over the phone or by the new online form when it is launched. While the form is in development, employers can still use email to report new claims. But be advised that email is being phased out because people did not include enough information in their messages. When submitting an injury or illness report, the employer needs to include the following info:
- Date and time of the accident;
- Employer’s name, telephone, and address;
- Address of accident or event site;
- Name and job title of the person making the report;
- Nature of injuries;
- Name and contact of someone at the accident site;
- Name and address of the injured party;
- The location where the injured employee was transported to;
- Description of the accident and whether anyone disrupted the scene; and
- Identity of any other law enforcement agencies present at the accident or event site.
Having all the required information is crucial; otherwise, the employer is not in compliance with Title 8 regulations.
COVID-19 in the Workplace
A newer issue to be aware of is the requirement to report COVID-19 cases in certain circumstances. Cal/OSHA requires that employers report positive COVID-19 cases when they meet specific criteria. For the reporting requirement to apply, COVID-19 must be work-related and result in one of the following:
- Worker’s death;
- Loss of consciousness;
- Missed work hours;
- Medical treatment beyond initial first aid;
- Restricted work or need to transfer to another job; or
- A significant illness or injury that a physician or other healthcare professional diagnoses.
An example of a work-related COVID-19 case might be an interaction with someone known to be infected with COVID-19 or sharing materials, tools, or vehicles with people who have COVID-19.
It’s not necessarily a requirement that COVID-19 be officially diagnosed itself in California, due in part to a shortage of testing supplies. However, employers should confirm a diagnosis whenever possible. This detail differs from standard federal OSHA guidelines on reportable COVID-19 cases. The federal guidelines require a confirmation of COVID-19 to be reportable.
California employers also must report COVID-19 outbreaks to public health departments right away. This applies when there are three or more reported cases in an exposed workgroup during a 14-day period or 20 or more cases within a 30-day period.
What if Your Employer Doesn’t Report the Injury?
If you are an employee who believes your employer hasn’t followed OSHA’s incident reporting requirements, you have a right to contact OSHA. Employers cannot take any adverse action against an employee for reporting work-related illnesses or injuries. OSHA should not be your first contact, however. You should first report the safety concern or injury to the proper person or people within your workplace. If you have a union representative or safety officer at your place of employment, you need to notify them as well. If no one takes any action, the safety hazard persists, and you believe you and your co-workers are in danger—you can then make a report to OSHA.
OSHA Whistleblower Protections
Understandably, some employees have reservations about reporting accidents to management in fear of retaliation or fear that their employer won’t make the necessary changes to keep employees safe. OSHA has a Whistleblower Protection Program that enforces many federal laws and protects employees from retaliation for actions such as alerting or reporting safety hazards and violations. Did you try to report hazardous conditions that resulted in someone’s injuries? Did your employer retaliate against you? If so, you might be able to file a whistleblower complaint with OSHA.
OSHA doesn’t protect all actions, which is why you need to review the specific covered laws and what actions constitute retaliation. Examples of the more than 20 statutes that fall under the whistleblower laws include:
- Clean Air Act;
- Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act;
- Safe Drinking Water Act;
- Solid Waste Disposal Act; and
- Toxic Substances Control Act.
Several examples of retaliatory actions include when a whistleblower is:
- Denied a promotion or overtime;
- Fired or laid off;
- Given a reduction in hours or pay;
- Threatened; or
You can review the complete list of statutes and retaliation actions on OSHA’s website. The time limit to file an OSHA whistleblower complaint varies depending on the statute. You may have as little as 30 days to file on some regulations, which is why it’s crucial to contact OSHA right away. While possible OSHA violations can be reported by an employee anonymously, whistleblower protection claims cannot. You will need to give your name so OSHA can investigate.
Contact a California Injury Attorney
Sustaining an on-the-job injury is scary. You may be worried about getting your medical bills paid, as well as how you will cover your regular bills for the time you missed from work. California employers must carry workers’ compensation coverage for their employees in most cases. And you may or may not be only limited to workers’ compensation benefits. If a negligent third party contributed to the accident, you could be eligible to bring a personal injury lawsuit against them.
Fear of retaliation for reporting these accidents is undoubtedly justified. While most employers want to do the right thing, there’s no guarantee they will follow OSHA’s incident reporting requirements. The skilled team at Henderson Law has over two decades of experience assisting injured California workers. Contact our office today to learn more and find out the best course of action for your particular situation.