The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has proposed a major change to its rules regarding the way that employers report injury and illness data to the agency.
On November 7, 2013, the OSHA Assistant Secretary Dr. David Michaels announced a new proposed rule that would require establishments with more than 250 employees, which are already required to keep injury records, to electronically submit them to OSHA on a quarterly basis, and establishments with 20 or more employees in industries with high injury and illness rates to electronically submit their injury and illness logs each year. Michaels said OSHA will post the data on its website, once personally identifying information is removed.
Michaels said the newly proposed submission requirements will enable employers to compare their safety records against peers and will allow workers to know the safety records of potential employers. Aggregating data across industries also will help researchers identify emerging hazards and patterns, Michaels said. On January 9, 2014, OSHA will hold a public meeting on the proposed rule in Washington, D.C. In addition, OSHA is accepting public comments for 90 days, until February 6, 2014.
Under current rules, employers are required to post annual summaries of injury and illness reports in a common area where employees can see them. While the OSHA website contains raw numbers about incidents at certain workplaces, it doesn't describe what the injury was or how it occurred. Business groups say they are likely to oppose the plan, claiming that raw injury data can be misconstrued or may disclose sensitive information that may be misused.
Marc Freedman, executive director for labor policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said the mere recording of an injury does not tell the full story about the circumstances surrounding it or whether the company has a good safety program. "Making company-specific data on injuries available for all to see would be a major problem and would likely lead to companies being targeted by outside groups who want to characterize these employers as having bad safety records," Freedman said.
Michaels announced the rule on the same day the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its estimate that there were almost 3 million nonfatal U.S. recordable workplace injuries and illnesses by private-industry employers in 2012, resulting in an incidence rate of 3.4 cases per 100 equivalent full-time workers. "Three million injuries are three million too many. We can and we must do better," Michaels said. Michaels called the proposed submission requirements "an effective, inexpensive, and non-prescriptive way" to encourage employers to do this.
With the possibility that OSHA reporting requirements could change soon, it's important for businesses to make sure they remain in compliance with OSHA’s recordkeeping rules.