OSHA Delays Portion of New Injury Reporting Rule.

The Rule: OSHA dropped a surprise in industry’s lap when it put out its new regulations on reporting injuries and illnesses.  As expected the rule requires electronic reporting of OSHA recordables.   However, the rule also included language preventing employers from discouraging reporting of injuries and that section was supposed to be enforced starting in August.

The Delay: After a lot of pushback from industry and a lot of confusion over how companies were supposed to comply, OSHA has delayed enforcement until November.   That will give OSHA time to release guidance for companies on compliance and companies to get their policies in place.

The Reason: The provision that is being delayed makes companies responsible for making sure that workers report injuries.  It says companies need policies to:

“establish a reasonable procedure for employees to report work-related injuries and illnesses promptly and accurately. A procedure is not reasonable if it would deter or discourage a reasonable employee from accurately reporting a workplace injury or illness.”

The provision also says employers “must not discharge or in any manner discriminate against any employee for reporting a work-related injury or illness.”  What does that mean?  In the background to the rule, known as the Preamble, OSHA says companies cannot use drug and alcohol testing as a way to discourage reporting.  That has a lot of experts scratching their heads over how they can prove that tests were warranted, not to mention that one of the reason to test in the first place is to help make sure workers are not impaired on the job.  Theoretically that will be sorted out in the new guidance.

Why November?   It does give industry another three months to implement the change.  It is also so close to the election that Congress will be out of session and, unless there is a lame duck session, may into be back until the new year, making it harder for opponents to block the new rule.

What Companies Should Do? Don’t drag your feet.  November will be here in no time! 

  1. Do a gap analysis of your existing policies.  Do they say anything about encouraging employees to report?  How do you communicate with employees on the subject of injuries?  
  2. Start drafting new policies or figuring out how to spread the word.   It would be good to let your employees know in writing that you encourage reporting of injuries.
  3. Consider holding off on the final policy change until OSHA issues guidance.  That way you can make that your approach is in line with OSHA’s directives.  
  4. Don’t ignore the main point of the regulation.   The requirement for many companies to start reporting their injury statistics on line kicks in on January 1st, 2017.  


Calendar: Safety Meetings on the Gulf Coast This Summer

FYI –   Here are a few of the safety-related meetings going on on the Gulf Coast this summer:

Lafayette STEPS Group

8:30 a.m., Thursday July 21 @ Safety Management Systems, 2916 N. University Ave., Lafayette, LA 70507

Please come hear my colleague from CORE Occupational, John Landry, and I talk at this meeting about the importance of handling worker injuries quickly and effectively, as well as answering questions about OSHA recordkeeping. The meeting is free.

Houston STEPS Group

Tuesday, July 19th from 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. @ Groves Industrial Supply, located at 7301 Pinemont Dr., Houston 77040, off of U.S. 290.

All of the STEPS meetings are valuable opportunities for oil and gas industry to interface with OSHA.

Offshore Operators Committee SEMS Forum

Wednesday, July 27, 8:00 AM, Shell Robert Training and Conference Center, 23260 Shell Lane, Robert, LA

Important opportunity to stay current with the offshore safety rules. You must register and pay a fee: http://oocmain.theooc.us/semsforum2016.html

Texas Safety Summit 

Monday, August 8-10, Sheraton Austin at the Capitol Hotel, 701 East 11th Street, Austin, Texas

20th annual summit put on by the Texas Department of Insurance. The Department is one of the unsung heroes of state government, providing a lot of valuable safety expertise to industry. You must register and pay a fee: http://www.cvent.com/events/20th-annual-texas-safety-summit/event-summary-bf46f11e3dc6476999eda95782f17edc.aspx.

Let me know if you need more information or about other safety-related meeting notices on the group site.

Ken Wells
Lifeline Strategies

Meeting Announcement: What To Do In The First Minutes After A Worker Injury

Please plan to come to the next meeting of the South Louisiana STEPS Network on Thursday, July 21 in Lafayette, LA.  My colleague from CORE Occupational Medicine, John Landry, and I will be talking to the group about the importance of handling worker injuries properly and the things that companies should focus on in the first 15 minutes after an injury occurs.

S. LA StepsSTEPS Meeting Details – The STEPS network is a formal alliance between OSHA and the oil and gas injury.  There are 20 different STEPS chapters that meet around the country.  Their goal is to serve as a forum to discuss safety issues and to provide an opportunity for industry and OSHA officials to work towards the safety and protection of oilfield workers.

You can find more information on the South Louisiana STEPS chapter here.

Admission is free and the meeting will be held:

8:30 a.m., Thursday July 21

Safety Management Systems

2916 N. University Ave., Lafayette, LA 70507

Our Speech – We will focus on the steps that companies should take right after an employee is or may be injured.  Study after study shows that the actions you take right after an incident play a large role in determining whether the worker will receive the right treatment, whether the worker winds up on workers comp and how long he or she may stay off the job. We will also answer your questions on how to interpret OSHA reporting requirements from a medical professional’s standpoint.

CORE Wheel



CORE Occupational Medicine – CORE is an industry leader in occupational medicine, providing a full spectrum of workplace health services across the entire employee life-cycle in an organization. CORE’s nationwide network of more than 3400 clinics provides the assurance your company will receive the right care at the right time. CORE can help increase workforce health, wellness, and productivity – and reduce overall medical costs.



What if You Can’t Attend?  – Drop me a note at Info@lifelinestrategies.com and I will be glad to send you the powerpoint presentation and talk through how it may apply within your company.



Video: Building Demolition Goes Terribly Wrong in Houston

Safe or just lucky?   That is the big question when you talk about company injury rates.   One company may have a low rate, but when you dig a little deeper you find a history of near misses that could have killed people.

That was brought home by an amazing video from a demolition project in Houston.   It appears that the operator walked away unhurt, but that is a wonder.  Note: If bad language offends you, turn down the sound.

On a whole other subject, commentary  from the guy with the camera and his friends show how, in the heat of the moment, humans tend to downplay the negative (a potential death) while they focus on the exciting part (a parking garage coming down).

The Houston Press ran a kind of greatest hits of building implosions in Houston recently.  You can find it here.


How Will OSHA Enforce The New Hazard Communication Update?

logo & ghsJune 1 was a big deadline that got very little attention.   It was the drop-dead date for American companies to update their Hazard Communication Programs.  More than a dozen years ago, regulators started work on an update called the Globally Harmonized System (GHS), which brought an international approach to communicating chemical hazards.  OSHA set a series of deadlines over the last three years in an attempt to give industry time to train workers on the new standard, reclassify chemicals under the new rules, switch over to new labeling and, finally, update company hazard communication plans.

Last week at the ASSE conference in Atlanta, Sven Rundman, of OSHA’s Office of Health Enforcement, gave an overview of implementation and some of the details of the program.  A few of the takeaways:

The Changes Are Complex and Companies That Think They Are In Compliance May Not Be – GHS is a completely new way of looking at chemical hazards.  For example, for companies that may put chemicals into smaller containers, there are very clearly prescribed rules for what must be on the company’s internal labels

Even If Companies Provided Training on The GHS Update, They May Still Need to Provide Updated Training –  The first GHS deadline hit on December 1st, 2013.  By that date, companies were required to give their employees training on the new system.   However, now OSHA expects employers to provide any necessary updates on the specifics of the company’s new Hazard Communication Plan, especially on any newly identified physical or health hazards.

Do you need help getting your own HazCom program in shape? Do you have new Safety Data Sheets on chemicals? Have you updated the program to include the GHS changes?   Are your employees trained on your program?   If you need an audit/gap analysis, help developing a program or training for employees, contact us at info@lifelinestrategies.com. 

Do You Use Temporary Workers or Outside Consultants?   Better Make Sure They Are Trained – OSHA has been emphasizing the host/staffing agency relationship and its role in safety.  Host employers and staffing companies are both responsible for worker safety and temporary workers are entitled to the same protections as other workers on site.  That means both the host and staffing agency need to ensure that workers have been trained on the general changes to HazCom and any specific information on hazards at the host site.

How Will OSHA Enforce The New Deadline?   By Hitting Companies Right in The Wallet – While OSHA has worked to get the word out on the specifics of the change, it has not been aggressive about communicating the deadline to the vast majority of American businesses, which may explain why surveys show a lot of companies are not aware of the deadline or have not met it.   What OSHA has been doing is fining violators.  OSHA has cited businesses for more than 14,500 Hazard Communication Standard violations since the end of 2013 when the training deadline went into place.  More than 8,000 of those were deemed serious.   Most of the penalties appear to be because companies had not plan or the plan was found to be lacking.

With OSHA fines going up by nearly 80 percent on August 1st, the cost of ignoring the GHS update could be very expensive.


Safety Updates: Fines, Reporting Rules and Slips, Trips & Falls

Just a few updates on some of the regulations that have been released in the past couple of months.

OSHA Fines to Jump 78% on August 1st – OSHA fines had not risen in 25 years, but that changed last November when Congress passed and the President signed a bipartisan budget bill that included a provision that pinned fines to the inflation rate.   OSHA has finally released an Interim Final Rule that raises the fines on August 1st.

Because the fines were way behind,  inflation there will be quite a sticker shock in the first year.

  •  Serious Violation: Penalty goes from $7,000 to $12,471.
  • Other-Than- Serious: Penalty goes from $7,000 to $12,471.
  • Willful or Repeated Violation:  Maximum Penalty goes from $70,000 to $124,709.
  • Posting Requirement:   Penalty goes from $7,000 to $12,471.
  • Failure to Abate: Penalty goes from $7,000 to $12,471.

The fines will automatically rise by the inflation rate in future years.

New OSHA Injury Reporting and Post Incident Drug Tests –  OSHA’s new rules on recording injuries contain some language that attempts to stop employers from overusing post-injury drug testing.  At first read, it could leave employers wondering if they can still order tests after an incident. OSHA’s intention is to keep employers from using drug tests as a way to discourage workers from reporting injuries.   The change takes place August 10.

Several legal experts have started to weigh in and their message is:  Don’t Panic!.   They refer to the OSHA Final Rule, which said that companies should not have a blanket policy to drug test all workers involved in injuries.  OSHA uses three examples when a drug test would not be warrented:

  • An ergonomic injury, such as a repetitive stress ergonomic injury,
  • A bee sting, or
  • An injury where the worker was blameless, such as getting hit by a forklift where the operator was clearly at fault.

The law firm of Constangy Brooks Smith & Prophete LLP has written a very good analysis of the new rule and how employers should address it.   For a number of reasons laid out in their review, they believe that most employer post-injury substance testing is still acceptable.

That said, employers really need to review their existing policies, probably with the help of their lawyer, to ensure that they are not simply requiring a blanket testing protocol.   The other important takeaway is that the new rule could put a lot of emphasis on testing being done with cause.  Since any legal action may come down to a question of what reasonable suspicion the company had for authorizing tests.  That means companies should consider whether they need to train supervisors and managers to recognize signs of impairment.

Slips, Trips, and Fall Prevention Rules Under Final Review – OSHA’s long awaited update to its Walking Working Surfaces and Personal Fall Protection Systems regulations have been sent to the White House for review.   The agency released its first effort to update the rules with a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in 1990.  It released a second attempt in 2010.   Now, the Final Rule is apparently finished.  While it is not known what the rule says in detail, it is an attempt to incorporate widely accepted industry practice.

In a normal year, the White House review could be finished later this summer and could have been released in early fall.  However, since this is an election year, it is likely to carry over into the next President’s term.