New final rule to make work injury data available on OSHA’s website

Employers to begin submitting electronic data in 2017

Posted May 11, 2016

OSHA issued its final rule to Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses, which the agency says modernizes injury data collection to better inform workers, employers, the public, and OSHA about workplace hazards.

Under the new rule, all establishments with 250 or more employees in industries covered by the recordkeeping regulation must electronically submit to OSHA injury and illness information from the OSHA 300 Log, 300A Summary, and 301 Incident Report. Establishments with 20-249 employees in certain industries must electronically submit information from OSHA Form 300A Summary only.

The new requirements take effect August 10, 2016, with phased in data submissions beginning in 2017. According to OSHA, the requirements do not add to or change an employer’s obligation to complete and retain injury and illness records under the Recording and Reporting Occupational Injuries and Illnesses regulation at 29 CFR 1904.

Currently, the agency receives little or no information about work-related injuries and illnesses. OSHA plans to make the injury and illnesses information it receives under the new rulemaking public on its website.

OSHA says that just as public disclosure of their kitchens’ sanitary conditions encourages restaurant owners to improve food safety, OSHA expects that public disclosure of work injury data will encourage employers to increase their efforts to prevent work-related injuries and illnesses.

“Since high injury rates are a sign of poor management, no employer wants to be seen publicly as operating a dangerous workplace,” said OSHA head Dr. David Michaels. “Our new reporting requirements will ‘nudge’ employers to prevent worker injuries and illnesses to demonstrate to investors, job seekers, customers and the public that they operate safe and well-managed facilities. Access to injury data will also help OSHA better target our compliance assistance and enforcement resources at establishments where workers are at greatest risk, and enable ‘big data’ researchers to apply their skills to making workplaces safer.”

Further, OSHA says the availability of these data will enable prospective employees to identify workplaces where their risk of injury is lowest; as a result, employers competing to hire the best workers will make injury prevention a higher priority. Access to these data will also enable employers to benchmark their safety and health performance against industry leaders, to improve their own safety programs.

The final rule also promotes an employee’s right to report injuries and illnesses without fear of retaliation, and clarifies that an employer must have a reasonable procedure for reporting work-related injuries that does not discourage employees from reporting. This aspect of the rule targets employer programs and policies that, while nominally promoting safety, have the effect of discouraging workers from reporting injuries and, in turn leading to incomplete or inaccurate records of workplace hazards.

Using data collected under the new rule, OSHA will create the largest publicly available data set on work injuries and illnesses, enabling researchers to better study injury causation, identify new workplace safety hazards before they become widespread and evaluate the effectiveness of injury and illness prevention activities. OSHA will remove all personally identifiable information associated with the data before it is publicly accessible.

This article was written by Lisa Neuberger of J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc.


 

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