New OSHA Reporting Requirements Go Into Effect January 1, 2015

Beginning January 1, 2015, employers will need to comply with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) new requirements for reporting employee fatalities and severe injuries. The new rule requires employers to report to OSHA all work-related fatalities within 8 hours and all work-related hospitalizations of one or more employees, amputations, and losses of an eye within 24 hours. (The current OSHA rule only requires employers to report work-related fatalities and hospitalizations of three or more employees.)
Employers must report any fatality that occurs within 30 days of a work-related incident. For example, this means that if an employee is seriously injured while on duty but does not pass away from his injuries until three weeks later, the employer must report the incident as a work-related fatality.
Employers must report all in-patient hospitalizations, amputations, and losses of eye that occur with 24 hours of a work-related incident. Inpatient hospitalization is defined as a formal admission to the inpatient service of a hospital or clinic for care or treatment. Notably, employers do not have to report an inpatient hospitalization if it was for diagnostic testing or observation only. Two other notable exceptions include injuries resulting from motor vehicle accidents on a public street or highway (unless the event occurred in a construction zone) and injuries on a commercial or public transportation system. 
The new rule covers all employers under OSHA’s jurisdiction, even those employers who are exempt from routinely keeping OSHA injury and illness records due to company size or industry. Employers can report employee fatalities and severe injuries by telephoning the nearest OSHA Area Office during business hours, calling the OSHA 24-hour hotline at 1-800-321-OSHA, or accessing OSHA’s website at www.osha.gov.


Ohio Does Not Recognize Dual Intent Doctrine

While many jurisdictions recognize the dual intent doctrine, which allows a workers’ compensation claim when a worker is injured while traveling for both business and personal purposes, Ohio does not. In an October 21, 2014 decision, the Ohio Supreme Court held in the case of Friebel v. Visiting Nurse Assn. of Mid-Ohio, Slip Opinion No. 2014-Ohio-4531, that the doctrine of dual intent is not applicable when determining eligibility for workers’ compensation benefits. 

This case involved a woman by the name of Tamara Friebel, who was employed by Visiting Nurse Association of Mid-Ohio (“VNA”) as a home health nurse to provide in-home healthcare services to VNA clients. Ms. Friebel traveled from her home to clients’ homes using her personal vehicle. While on the way to a patient’s home, Friebel decided to also transport her children and family friends to a local mall. Before dropping off her passengers, Friebel’s car was hit from behind while stopped at a traffic light. Friebel filed an application for workers’ compensation benefits, and the Industrial Commission allowed her claim at the administrative level. VNA filed an appeal into common pleas court and moved for, and was granted, summary judgment on the basis that Friebel was on a personal errand and thus not injured within the course and scope of her employment. Friebel appealed, and the court of appeals reversed the trial court’s order granting summary judgment and held that, as a matter of law, the accident and injury arose out of and occurred in the course of Friebel’s employment. The court of appeals indicated that Friebel had the dual intent to drop her passengers off at the mall and to travel to her patient’s home and that when she was injured, she had not yet diverted from that path.

On VNA’s appeal, the Ohio Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals’ decision and remanded the case to the trial court. In a 5-2 decision, the Court cited a prior Ohio Supreme Court case (Cardwell v. Indus. Comm., 155 Ohio St. 466, 99 N.E.2d 306 (1951)) and commented that a claim’s compensability should focus on the objective standard of “in the course of” and “arising out of” a person’s employment, not the subjective intent of an injured worker.

This case is good news for Ohio employers because the Court essentially rejected a blanket rule in favor of continuing a fact-based analysis for claims involving employees traveling with both personal and employment purposes. 

Chris Debski