Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed a measure into law that will greatly expand when employers are required to report workplace injuries to Cal/OSHA.

The new law, AB 1805, broadens the scope of what will be classified as a serious illness or injury which regulations require employers to report to Cal/OSHA “immediately. As of yet, there is no effective date for this new law, but observers say regulations will first have to be written, a process that would start next year.

The definition of “serious injury or illness” has for decades been an injury or illness that requires inpatient hospitalization for more than 24 hours for treatment, or if an employee suffers a “loss of member” or serious disfigurement.

The definition has excluded hospitalizations for medical observation. Serious injuries caused by a commission of a penal code violation (a criminal assault and battery), or a vehicle accident on a public road or highway have also been excluded.

The new rules

The new rules being implemented by AB 1805 are designed to bring California’s rules more in line with Federal OSHA’s regulations for reporting. Here are the new rules:

  • Any inpatient hospitalization (even less than 24 hours) for treatment of a workplace injury or illness will need to be reported to Cal/OSHA.
  • For reporting purposes, an inpatient hospitalization must be required for something “other than medical observation or diagnostic testing.”
  • Employers will need to report any “amputation” to Cal/OSHA. This replaces the terminology “loss of member.” Even if the tip of a finger is cut off, it’s considered an amputation.
  • Employers must still report any serious disfiguration to Cal/OSHA.
  • Loss of an eye must be reported.
  • Serious injuries or deaths caused by a commission of a penal code violation must now be reported.
  • While the exclusion for injuries resulting from auto accidents on a public street or highway remain in effect, accidents that occur in a construction zone must now be reported.

Compliance

Rules for reporting serious injuries and illness or fatalities are as follows:

  • The report must be made within eight hours of the employer knowing, or with “diligent inquiry” should have known, about the serious injury or illness (or fatality).
  • The report must be made by phone to the nearest Cal/OSHA district office (note that a companion bill, AB 1804, eliminated e-mail as a means of reporting because e-mail can allow for incomplete incident reporting).

Because of the “diligent inquiry” component, employers should monitor an injured worker’s condition once they learn of an injury, particularly if they need to seek out medical treatment. A member of the staff should be on hand to monitor the employee and report to supervisors immediately if that person will need to be hospitalized.

Employers should make sure that supervisors are made aware of the new rules so that any time a worker is injured to the point that they need to be hospitalized, they know to notify Cal/OSHA within eight hours.

Also, if you have an employee that suffers a medical episode at work – such as a seizure, heart attack or stroke – you are required to report the hospitalization to Cal/OSHA.

It’s better to err on the side of caution if an employee is hospitalized for any reason. Not doing so can result in penalties for failure to report or failing to report in a timely manner.

Accordingly, it is important to educate management representatives, particularly those charged with the responsibility to make reports to Cal/OSHA, about the nuances of Cal/OSHA’s reporting rules.

One final note: The results of a serious injury or illness or workplace fatality will usually trigger a site inspection by Cal/OSHA.