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Don’t Want Your Injury and Illness Reports Online? Submit Your Comments to OSHA Now!

In a proposed rule appearing in the Federal Register on November 8, 2013, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) publicized its intention to bring about drastic changes to employer reporting and recordkeeping practices. The proposal followed the agency’s annual Occupational Injuries and Illnesses report, which estimated that three million workers were injured on the job in 2012.

The proposal contains three new regulations:

  • Establishments with more than 250 employees must submit their injury and illness records electronically to OSHA on a quarterly basis.
  • Establishments with twenty or more employees and also in high injury/illness industries (such as nursing care, agriculture, and construction) must submit injury and illness records electronically to OSHA on an annual basis.
  • Upon agency request, any employer must submit electronically information from their injury and illness records.

Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, has made clear that the proposal is not seeking to burden employers with more administrative tasks. “The proposal does not add any new requirement to keep records; it only modifies an employer’s obligation to transmit these records to OSHA,” said Michaels. The goal, according to Michaels, is to “…encourage earlier abatement of hazards and result in improved programs to reduce workplace hazards and prevent injuries, illnesses and fatalities.” While a worthy objective, employers already must keep extensive records and provide them to OSHA at certain intervals or upon request – so does the additional step of electronic submission really achieve improved programs?

What is at the heart of OSHA’s proposed rule is the additional step of making all the electronically submitted information public via their website. By publicizing these records, OSHA’s thinly-veiled hope is that employers will want to outshine their competitors in safety. Making records public and easily accessible, not the clerical obligation to electronically submit the data to OSHA, may lead to improved safety. But, increased public awareness about workplace safety could have the very real effect of hurting or helping a business’s number of prospective employees. In addition, consumer confidence may be affected by the number of injuries or illnesses a business encounters in any given time period. Records can also be misleading (i.e., not every incident is an OSHA violation) or wrongly interpreted by those not familiar with reporting requirements.

Comments on the proposal are being accepted until February 6, 2014. Comments always have the potential to bring about change to the proposed rule. If you are an employer and would like to be heard, contact a McBrayer employment law attorney today. We can help you draft and submit your thoughts on the issue.

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