As most employers should be aware, any serious injury or death in connection with the workplace is immediately reportable to Cal/OSHA. “Immediately” means as soon as practicable, and in no event later than 8 hours after the employer knows, or with diligent inquiry would have known, of the death or serious injury. Now, Governor Newsom has signed Assembly Bill No. 1805 into law which actually broadens the scope of injuries that qualify as “serious” under the California Labor Code.
While the timing requirements have stayed the same, the definition of what qualifies as a “Serious” injury has changed. For instance, in the past, an injury which required hospitalization for less than 24 hours would not be reportable, even if the employee was admitted during this period for purposes other than medical observation.
Now, the new law requires that the injury be reported no matter the time that elapses in the hospital, as long as the treatment is for other than medical observation or testing. What this means is that any treatment for the injury or illness by a hospital or clinic – outside of just for “observation” or “testing” purposes – will now be reportable. As a real-world example, a muscular skeletal strain or broken bone, which can often times be attended to, diagnosed, and medically treated within a 24-hour period at the hospital, will no longer fall outside the reporting requirement.
Employers will also now need to report any “amputation” to Cal/OSHA, versus the old requirement which applied to any “loss of a member.” This helps clarify and put into law the often litigated issue as to what qualified as a “loss of a member.” For instance, prior decisions issued by the Cal/OSHA Appeals Board – the administrative agency that decides all OSHA matters in California – have determined that even the loss of the tip of a finger qualified as a “loss of a member” and was therefore reportable.
The new law retains the current requirement to report any injury resulting in a “serious degree of permanent disfigurement,” but adds the requirement to report the loss of an eye. Employers should be careful not to assume that a particular injury is not severe enough to be a “serious disfigurement,” as cases in the past have held that a toe or finger that sets or heals in an awkward manner, qualifies as a serious disfigurement.
Furthermore, in the past Serious injuries or deaths caused by the commission of a penal code violation (such as criminal battery or murder) did not need to be reported. Under the new law, such crimes are now reportable to Cal/OSHA, as long as it occurs in connection with work.
What this all boils down to is the following:
- Employers should be aware of the broader situations which will trigger the requirement to report serious injuries to Cal/OSHA.
- In particular, supervisors should be aware of the new requirements so they can promptly report and follow up as necessary regarding any hospitalization of an employee.
- Employers should not assume that any minor level of disfigurement is not reportable.
- Proper reporting to OSHA avoids penalties associated with a late or failure to report citation, while at the same time alerting OSHA to the accident so they can timely assess and begin their investigation.
The new law goes into effect January 1, 2020, so employers and their safety professionals should be aware of the changes and train accordingly.