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Division of Safety and Hygiene Policy


Bureau of Workers’ Compensation Workplace Fatality Response Process


Policy Effective Date: November 14, 2007

Revision Date: August 9, 2010





The Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) Workplace Fatality Response Process provides guidance to BWC employees to ensure a consistent statewide response to workplace fatalities.  BWC must ensure that appropriate, timely interactions occur with the employer and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and/or the Public Employment Risk Reduction Program (PERRP).  Cooperation and coordination of activities is essential during this difficult time for the employer and its employees.


It is important to distinguish between BWC staff that investigates workplace fatalities, and staff that provides consultation services to prevent future fatalities or accidents from occurring.  The Safety Violation Investigation Unit (SVIU) conducts investigations of private employer workplace fatalities.  PERRP investigates public employer workplace fatalities.  Safety and Hygiene and Employer Services staff provide consultation, safety management, training, program assistance, surveys and industrial hygiene services to employers.  In addition, services are provided to identify and correct workplace safety hazards and to assist in understanding the financial impacts of the workplace fatality.  This distinction between investigation and consultation services will also determine how BWC staff interacts with Federal OSHA.


Legal references for this policy can be found in Ohio Revised Code (ORC) 4121.17, 4167.01 and Ohio Administrative Code (OAC) 4167-1-01, 4167-6-10





The benefits of the BWC Workplace Fatality Response Process are:

·         Accident investigation and prevention assistance is offered

·         Additional safety services are recommended

·         Financial impact review is offered

·         BWC response is coordinated to ensure efficient collection of needed documentation, while remaining sensitive to the needs of the employer and its employees



Safety Violation Investigation Unit (SVIU)


Per ORC 4121.17, BWC may investigate any place of employment that it learns is not safe or is injurious to the welfare of an employee.  SVIU will be the first BWC staff notified and sent to the accident scene/employer’s workplace to investigate.  Other BWC staff, with the exception of PERRP and the Claim Service Specialist (CSS) should refrain from contacting the employer until SVIU completes its investigation and issues a report.


SVIU will conduct on-site investigations of workplace fatalities that have the following characteristics for private and self-insuring employers:

·         Instantaneous death, and

·         Non-motor vehicle accident, and

·         No investigation by a law enforcement or fire department entity, and

·         Does NOT involve federal or military employees


Note: SVIU will investigate a fatality that has the characteristics noted above and involves a fire fighter, peace officer, emergency medical technician or paramedic employed by a public employer or any person employed as a correctional officer in a county or municipal correctional institution.   Per the PERRP definitions statute, Ohio Revised Code, 4167.01, and rule OAC 4167-1-01(G), public employee does not mean a fire fighter, peace officer, emergency medical technician, or paramedic employed by a public employer.


SVIU will evaluate the appropriateness of an investigation for any fatalities that occur in the agricultural industry, taking into account the location of the accident and whether the fatality involved an officer of a family farm corporation.


The SVIU investigation will include, but not be limited to:

·         Gathering reports from governmental and law enforcement entities

·         Interacting with first responders

·         Making contact with the employer

·         Interviewing witnesses and interested parties

·         Photographing or videotaping accident scenes, equipment, and/or workplaces

·         Determining causation and contributing factors to the accident


SVIU will scan into the claim file via Version 3 (V3) any documentation that will assist the claim determination process.


The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has federal authority to inspect workplaces for hazards likely to cause serious injury or death to employees and to investigate private employer workplace fatalities.  SVIU will work with OSHA to communicate and coordinate activities during the fatality investigation.  Throughout the investigation, SVIU will collaborate and share case specific information with OSHA as permitted.  SVIU will request from OSHA, and through the Freedom of Information Act, any citations, photographs, videos, reports and/or other findings which then may be utilized and included within the completed SVIU report of investigation.


Once SVIU completes its investigation, a copy of report will be provided to the Division of Safety and Hygiene.  SVIU will notify the assigned Service Office that the fatality investigation has been completed.



BWC Service Office Employer Contact


BWC will advise the employer of services that are available – safety, financial impact, and claims management.  A BWC representative will contact the employer upon completion of the SVIU investigation.  Any exceptions to earlier contact by the Service Office must be approved by SVIU.  Contact may occur through the multi-discipline Catastrophic Claims Team or similar team consisting of a Claims Service Specialist, Employer Services Specialist (ESS), BWC Service Office consultant and Employer Management Supervisor (EMS).  The BWC representative may offer the employer assistance with accident prevention or other appropriate safety services  from a BWC Service Office consultant.  In addition, the ESS will offer assistance to help the employer understand and proactively manage the financial impact of the accident.



Employer Reply


If the employer states that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is on site conducting an accident investigation BWC should wait until OSHA completes its investigation before offering consultation services.  The BWC representative should wait for approval from SVIU or PERRP (Public Employers only) before attempting to contact the employer to offer safety services  such as accident prevention, safety training, and program review. 


When discussing safety services, the BWC representative will explain to a willing employer that a BWC Service Office consultant will assist with reviewing the accident, discussing what occurred and identifying possible corrective solutions.  In addition, the BWC representative explains that an ESS is available to discuss the financial impact of the accident and strongly recommends that the employer utilize this consultation.  At the conclusion of the conversation, the service office representative should initiate contact by creating a referral to a BWC Service Office consultant and the ESS to begin service delivery.  If the employer declines the offer for assistance, it should be documented in detail in the Universal Document System (UDS).


If the employer declines the offer of safety services assistance, a service office representative should write a letter to the employer.  The letter documents the initial and follow-up offering of safety services and restates the availability of safety services.  The letter will be sent to the employer customer and filed in UDS.



BWC Internal Collaboration


All BWC contacts with the employer should be coordinated to the greatest degree possible to avoid confusion for the employer and prevent duplication of requests.  It is likely that the CSS, ESS and safety staff will have contact with the employer at various times during this process.  At the initial notification of the fatality, the EMS or Injury Management Supervisor (IMS) will review the history of the employer and its relationship with BWC via UDS.  If there is a current relationship, a referral should be given to the BWC staff member(s) that has had contact with the employer.  Any remaining service offerings should be referred to an appropriate BWC staff member.  If the employer is assigned to a Business Consultant (BC), the BC should be included in the effort to work with the employer and may interact with the employer in the same manner as the ESS.



Public Employment Risk Reduction (PERRP) Fatality Investigation


Public employers are required to report a workplace fatality to PERRP within eight hours after learning of the incident.  Public employers may feel they have met their due diligence by reporting the fatality to the local BWC Service Office.  Therefore, the service offices must participate in informing PERRP of any reported or known public employer fatality.  Upon notification, PERRP will inform SVIU and other various parties within BWC so that the necessary response activities can begin.  An investigation assignment will be given to a PERRP Safety Consultant who will be the lead in the fatality investigation.  BWC Service Office field staff should refrain from on site activity with the public employer customer until approved by the PERRP Safety Consultant.  The safety consultant will follow standard investigation protocols after which a report will be generated and identified citations issued to the employer with fixed abatement dates.


PERRP will notify the assigned Service Office that the fatality investigation has been completed.



BWC Interaction with OSHA


BWC Service Office Consultation with an Employer Involved in an OSHA Proceeding


In the majority of situations, OSHA’s involvement with an employer is considered a legal proceeding that can escalate and reach court.  Accordingly, BWC Service Office consultants are to avoid providing expert opinions in the areas of industrial and construction safety, industrial hygiene, and/or ergonomics relative to OSHA’s findings.


Under applicable OSHA regulations, private employers are required to immediately report occupational fatalities.  Such report will result in an immediate inspection and fatality investigation by OSHA.  This legal proceeding may result in citations and fines to the employer.  BWC Service Office consultants should avoid becoming involved in the OSHA procedure and instead limit their involvement to assisting the employer with abating an immediate hazard at the workplace.


Should an employer request a fatality analysis by a BWC Service Office consultant, the consultant should address the request with his/her supervisor and secure approval by the Service Office Manager before agreeing to perform such an analysis.  Under no circumstances should a BWC Service Office consultant participate in a fatality analysis until OSHA has completed its investigation.



General Guidelines


BWC Service Office consultants, including Industrial Safety Consultant Specialists, Industrial Safety Hygienists, and Ergonomists, that provide on-site consultation to employers should follow these guidelines when dealing with an OSHA issue or finding:

·         Safety and Hygiene consultants should not provide an opinion on the accuracy or substance of an OSHA finding.

·         OSHA findings initiate a legal process.  No BWC Service Office consultant should be a witness on the employer’s behalf at an OSHA proceeding.

·         Employers seeking contradictory evidence for an OSHA finding should consider hiring a private consultant.

·         It is appropriate for a BWC Service Office consultant to assist the employer in abating hazards and achieving compliance with OSHA citations, for the purpose of accident and injury prevention.

·         In rare cases in which a BWC Service Office consultant may conclude that compliance with an OSHA citation may not fully or partially abate the hazard or exposure to the hazard, the consultant will bring such conclusion to the attention of his/her supervisor.  The supervisor will validate the conclusion with the Service Office Manager and a Safety and Hygiene Technical Advisor before communicating with the employer.


Note: the above guidelines apply to all interactions with OSHA, including workplace fatalities.



Joint Accident Investigation Site Visit


BWC Service Office field staff should not conduct joint on-site accident investigations with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) representatives.  Although BWC Service Office field staff and OSHA share a common mission of reducing injuries and illnesses, the methods of addressing the mission are very different: (BWC Service Office) consultation vs. (OSHA) compliance.  Therefore, BWC supports separate visits.  Separate visits are less likely to cause employer customers confusion while distinguishing the distinct different manner in which the mission of reducing injury and illness is addressed.