The Connecticut Business and Industry Association emailed an alert to its members last month, telling them a call to the ambulance could also bring federal safety inspectors to their door. An innocuous announcement? Or will unscrupulous employers now think twice about calling 911 for an injured worker?
“Employers should be aware that many first-response emergency personnel in Connecticut are now routinely contacting OSHA whenever they respond to calls made to them from businesses,” the CBIA wrote in its alert. “And OSHA is subsequently conducting spot inspections of many of those workplaces.“This referral from ambulance crews is outside normal practices, CBIA claimed.“If you contact a first responder in the event of an emergency in your company, it is now very likely that the first responder will also contact OSHA to report the incident,” CBIA wrote, “and the agency could also arrive quickly in response.“Upon reading this alert, workers’ compensation attorney (and CBIA member) Stewart Casper was livid, despite language further down in the email reminding employers they should be “fully compliant” with OSHA regulations and ready for inspection at any time.“I think it was really callous, stupid and shortsighted. It could only have as its intended purpose a warning to CBIA members to clean up before you call 911,” Casper said. “If anybody’s life is at risk, the only thing anyone should be thinking about is getting help, not whether they’re getting caught with an OSHA violation.“CBIA did not respond to requests for comment.Paul Mangiafico, OSHA’s assistant area director, said he didn’t have a problem with the alert. “CBIA is informing its members, which it has every right to do,” Mangiafico said. “I don’t think it implies just by calling OSHA people will stop dialing 911.“Mangiafico confirmed OSHA has a “very good working relationship with first responders.” Since employers are only obligated to call OSHA if someone is killed, or if three or more people go to the hospital, first responders are important sources of information, he said. But just because OSHA gets a referral doesn’t necessarily mean they will follow up- it depends on the severity of the incident.“Sometimes we go, sometimes we don’t go,” Mangiafico said. “To say just because you call 911, OSHA will come, is false in my opinion.“In addition to first responders, OSHA gets referrals from business competitors, the news media, and the police, Mangiafico said. Connecticut had 54 on the job deaths in 2004, up from 37 in 2003, according to the state Department of Labor.