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Updated OSHA reporting requirements cause confusion

Strict new reporting requirements introduced by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration have created a number of challenges for employers in New Jersey and around the country. The new regulations went into effect on Jan. 1, and OSHA personnel have since been struggling to cope with a surge in the number of reports received and a flood of questions from puzzled employers. The number of reports received by OSHA each week has increased from approximately 40 to over 200, but ambiguous language has left many employers concerned about compliance.

Workplace fatalities should still be reported to OSHA within eight hours, but the federal agency must now be notified if even a single worker requires in-patient hospital treatment. The old rules only required employers to file a report if three or more workers were hospitalized. The new reporting standards also require employers to notify OSHA about workplace accidents that lead to amputations or the loss of an eye.

Experts say that the requirement to file a report if even a single worker is hospitalized could lead to an additional 30,000 injury reports each year being sent to OSHA. The number of amputation reports is also likely to increase sharply. The loss of a fingertip is now considered an amputation, and this kind of injury is common in a number of industries. Ambiguous language could also lead to unnecessary reports being filed. OSHA must only be notified if a worker is admitted to hospital, but employers worried about compliance sometimes file reports about injured workers who are treated at a hospital without being admitted.

Employers concerned about soaring insurance rates may sometimes claim that an injury is not work-related even after filing a report with OSHA. They may also allege during a workers' compensation hearing that the severity of a worker's injury is being exaggerated or the medical evidence supporting the claim is questionable. An attorney who has experience with these matters can often provide representation to injured workers in the event of such a dispute.

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