U.S. Steel has agreed to modify its employee injury-reporting rule. OSHA said the old rule discouraged employees from reporting injuries.
The steelmaker had a policy requiring all employees to report immediately all injuries to a supervisor.
Court documents show two cases in which injury reporting that was considered delayed by the company resulted in loss of pay for employees.
On Feb. 15, 2014, employee John Armstrong slightly bumped his head on a low-hanging beam while wearing a hard hat. Since he didn’t feel any pain, Armstrong didn’t report the incident.
Four days later, Armstrong felt stiffness in his right shoulder and visited a doctor. That day, a United Steelworkers representative reported the injury to a supervisor.
On Feb. 21, 2014, U.S. Steel suspended Armstrong for five days without pay for failing to comply with the company’s immediate injury reporting policy.
Armstrong filed an OSHA complaint, and the agency found U.S. Steel violated federal regulations by suspending the employee without pay for reporting a workplace injury when he realized he was injured.
In a second case, on Feb. 12, 2014, Jeff Walters, an employee at the U.S. Steel Clairton plant, noticed a small splinter in his thumb and removed it.
Two days later, his thumb swelled and he visited a doctor.
Immediately after seeing the doctor, Walters verbally informed his supervisor of the splinter.
On Feb. 21, 2014, U.S. Steel suspended Walters for five days without pay because he failed to comply with the immediate injury reporting policy.
Walters filed an OSHA complaint, and the agency came to the same conclusion as in Armstrong’s case.
In February 2015, OSHA asked a federal court to order U.S. Steel not to enforce its injury reporting policy.
U.S. Steel confirmed the settlement to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review but had no other comment.
The company has agreed to replace its policy with one that allows reporting an injury when a worker becomes aware of it. The employer will also compensate Armstrong and Walters for five days pay plus interest. No other monetary penalty is involved.
Despite delay, OSHA still cracks down
OSHA recently delayed until Nov. 1, 2016, enforcement of provisions in its new electronic reporting/online records rule that would prohibit companies from having safety incentive and drug testing programs that discourage employees from reporting injuries.
Industry groups had filed to get an injunction against those provisions.
While those sections of the electronic reporting rule are up in the air for now, the U.S. Steel case shows OSHA can still take action against companies that allegedly discourage injury reporting when an employee files a complaint. The new regulation would allow OSHA to take action without an employee complaint.