Study: Employers often fail to report hospitalizations

Date Posted: 02/20/2023
Failing to report hospitalizations to OSHA

Repeated studies find that employers often fail to report work-related hospitalizations from serious injuries and illnesses. In fact, failing to report these incidents is one of the most commonly-cited OSHA violations.

According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), reasons for incomplete reporting include business practices that discourage reporting, poor organization of records, and poor understanding of reporting requirements.

OSHA requires all employers (even those exempt from maintaining an OSHA 300 Log) to report any amputation, loss of an eye, or inpatient hospitalization within 24 hours. However, employers need not report hospitalizations resulting from motor vehicle accidents, unless the incident occurred in a work zone.

Study of Michigan data

Michigan requires all hospitals to report work-related hospitalizations. Michigan State University’s Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine analyzed three years of reporting data from 2016-2018. They matched the hospitalizations reported by employers to the hospitalized injuries and illnesses reported by the 134 hospitals in Michigan. The study compared employees’ first and last names, company names, injury dates, and type of injury.

Findings included the following:

  • Employers reported 1,260 hospitalizations to OSHA, but hospitals reported 2,238 work-related hospitalizations, so employers reported only about half of work-related cases.
  • The percent of hospitalizations reported by employers did not significantly improve over the three years, averaging around 43 percent.
  • Hospitals reported three days as the median length of stay. The total number of days hospitalized was 10,435 with an estimated hospital cost of $24,222,334.
  • Companies with 250 or more employees were more likely to report (68.4 percent) while small companies with 10 or fewer employees were significantly less likely to report (32.9 percent).
  • Employers in manufacturing (64.7 percent), wholesale trade (57.5 percent) and public administration (66.2 percent) were more likely to report.
  • The lowest reporting occurred among employers in agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting (8.2 percent); construction (38.2 percent); finance and insurance (21.4 percent); real estate and rental and leasing (27.3 percent); administrative and support and waste management and remediation services (33.9 percent); arts, entertainment and recreation (10.8 percent); accommodation and food services (20.8 percent); and other services except public administration (20.3 percent).
  • Of the 465 inspections conducted in response to a work-related hospitalization, 246 employers (52.9 percent) had not corrected the hazard prior to the inspection even though the inspection happened months after the hospitalization.

The data suggests lack of awareness of the reporting requirement among employers less familiar with workplace safety and health issues, and/or among employers that do not have a dedicated health and safety specialist.

This study evaluated data from Michigan, but the authors noted that they have no reason to expect employers in other states are more likely to comply with reporting obligations.

How Safety Management Suite Can Help

Documenting everyone’s expectations and duties helps your company meet your compliance obligations. One way to communicate those expectations is through written plans and policies. The Written Plans tool in the J. J. Keller® SAFETY MANAGEMENT SUITE offers numerous plan template that can be modified as needed, helping you establish and communicate everyone’s obligations.

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