EHS Insider Blog

OSHA Hikes Fine for Failure of Timely Reporting


OSHA has had rules for injury-related recordkeeping and reporting since 2002, when standard 29 CFR 1904 was first enacted. With one eye on ways to improve workplace safety and another on how effectively their standard is implemented in the field, OSHA recently adjusted the reporting requirements for serious injuries and increased the fine for failing to report serious, work-related injuries on time.

Here is a look at the new changes to 29 CFR 1904.

What has Changed?

OSHA’s March 4, 2016 enforcement memorandum outlines these changes to 29 CFR 1904, section 39, for employers: “more information from the employer when conducting an RRI; a safe harbor provision for employers who conduct internal investigations during the RRI; monitoring inspections of closed RRIs; increased penalties for failure to report.”


OSHA’s enforcement memo cites these requirements for reporting fatalities, hospitalizations, amputations, and losses of an eye, as a result of work-related incidents:

  • 1904.39(a)(1) requires employers to report to OSHA within 8 hours after the death of any employee as a result of a work-related incident (no change from previous regulation).

  • 1904.39(a)(2) requires employers to report to OSHA within 24 hours after the hospitalization, amputation, or loss of an eye of a worker from a work-related incident.

What is Reportable?

Previously, reportable work-related injuries included those with three or more employee hospitalizations, and any fatality. Current requirements have changed and now include:

  • Any fatality (no change)
  • Any work-related employee hospitalization
  • Any amputation resulting from a workplace injury
  • Any work-related injury that results in the loss of an eye


The primary impact of the change is hiking the fine to improve the reporting of serious injuries within 24 hours.

  • The previous maximum fine for reporting-related failures had been set at $1,000, with allowable adjustments for small businesses. The revision hikes the recommended maximum fine to $5,000 (holding onto allowable adjustments for small businesses).
  • Note that your OSHA Area Director may spike the fine to as high as $7,000, as needed, in order to come closer to reaching what OSHA refers to as the “necessary deterrent effect”—maximizing fines to ensure maximized compliance with reporting of serious injuries within 24 hours of discovering the event.

You may access OSHA’s 300 Log and the 301 Injury and Illness Incident Report forms here.


OSHA now may spot-check companies who report a serious injury and promise to investigate and mitigate any workplace safety hazards.

  • OSHA’s spot-checks may take one of two forms: (1) a site inspection, or (2) a Rapid Response Investigation (RRI), which typically calls for an employer to conduct an investigation and hazard remediation, followed by a letter to OSHA detailing what was done. OSHA may then deem the RRI to be closed.

  • Note that once an RRI is deemed to be closed, OSHA may still perform a spot inspection at random to ensure that the cause of the reported injury no longer exists—making a clear statement to employers that OSHA is redoubling efforts to reduce workplace safety hazards and increase safety-related compliance.

  • OSHA’s post stipulates the following safe harbor provision: spot inspections “will be limited to an inspection of the previously reported condition,” and OSHA will not cite the employer for whatever the employer may uncover during an internal investigation, as long as “employees are not exposed to a serious hazard” and “the employer is taking diligent steps to correct the condition.”

Who Must Comply With This Rule?

Standard 29 CFR 1904 covers all private sector companies with more than ten employees. The ruling also applies to public sector agencies in states with OSHA-approved workplace safety regulations.

You may read OSHA standard 29 CFR 1904 in full here.

The Message for Employers

Taken together, OSHA’s new reportable injury list, the hike in the fine for late reporting of injuries, and the increased spot monitoring that the change includes send a signal to employers that OSHA is stepping up its enforcement, in a push to strengthen workplace safety and encourage employers to invest in protecting employees.

Employers who want to step up their workplace safety and compliance will appreciate the cost-effective and efficient support available through Wise Businessware’s software and e-training programs. When it comes to workplace safety, compliance, and training, we have your back. Contact us to see how we can strengthen your EHS systems in a way that makes good business sense. 

Topics: Recordkeeping and Reporting