Earlier this year, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OHSA) issued amendments to its tracking of workplace injuries and illnesses component. The new rule puts in place two very important and connected stipulations to the recordkeeping rule.
- First, employers are required to submit records of workplace injuries and illnesses to be listed for public view on OSHA’s website.
- Second, employers are prohibited from using various techniques to discourage employees from reporting their injuries or illnesses.
The revised rule should be implemented in order to maximize safety of personnel and minimize risks including noncompliance and increased injuries. Overall, the new amendments will result in a safer, more secure workplace environment.
The Goals of the New OSHA Rules
In effect, the new rules seek to (1) maximize the safety of employees and (2) act as a deterrent for companies with high rates of workplace injuries or illnesses. The first change is that employers will now have to report the workplace injuries and illnesses that occur during the year to OSHA to be displayed on a publically available database. Of course, employee’s personal information cannot be shared. By putting in place the public feature of recordkeeping, OSHA is hoping employers will take better steps at mitigating workplace hazards and injuries. The anticipation behind the rule is that companies will want to take steps to prevent injuries or illnesses for fear of reputational harm. Potentially, the information could help consumers and businesses decide whether or not to engage a company’s services, while also helping companies better improve their safety measures by comparing themselves to the industry’s safest.
Since the new rule provides a disincentive to properly report injuries and illnesses, OSHA has supplemented the first revision with a second to make sure there will not be a discouraging effect on reporting. The second change acts as a restraint on the first, by prohibiting any policies or procedures “discouraging workers from reporting an injury or illness.”
Beware Discouraging Employees from Reporting Illness or Injuries
OSHA gives a few examples of prohibited policies including company policies that, on the surface look as if they are promoting health and safety, but have the practical effect of discouraging employees to report their illnesses or injuries. These policies or procedures could take the form of company contests to see which group of employees end the year with the least injuries, or prize items for employees who have little or no injuries or illnesses reported. On the surface, these policies look as if they are promoting safety within the workplace, but could easily incentivize employees to refrain from reporting their injuries. It is important that companies are mindful of the handling of workplace injuries and illnesses as the new amendments make it easier to be in violation of OSHA. Any notion that a company is somehow deterring employees from reporting will result in a violation under the revised rule.
Companies will need to report their records for the public database by July for the first two years, and by March 2nd in the subsequent years.
OSHA Revisions to Recordkeeping Rules (29 CFR 1904)
I have listed a few of the revisions to the recordkeeping rules below. You can learn more on the OSHA website.
1. Requiring electronic submission of employer occupational injury and illness data to OSHA and
- Employers with more than 250 employees at any time during the previous calendar year:
- Must submit the information from 300A (summary of work-related injuries and illnesses), 300 (log of work-related injuries and illnesses), 301 (injury and illness incident report)
- Everything on the forms must be submitted except for the Employee Name in 300 and employee name, address, physician, name and address where obtained treatment from Form 301
- OSHA will provide a secured website for the electronic submission
- Information must be submitted, for the first two years, 2017 & 2018 by July 1st; Thereafter by March 2nd
- Employers with 20 or more employees but less than 250 and classified on an industry list must:
- Electronically submit the information from 300A
- Ensure everything on the 300A is submitted
2. Facilitating employee reporting of work-related injuries or illnesses by mandating accessible procedures and barring employers from setting policies that (in OSHA’s view) inhibit employees from reporting injuries and illnesses or punish them for doing so
- Promotes an employee’s right to report injuries and illnesses without fear of retaliation, and clarifies that an employer must have reasonable procedure for reporting work-related injuries that does not discourage employees from reporting
- Practices that look like they are promoting safety but have the effect of discouraging workers from reporting injuries and in turn leading to incomplete or inaccurate records of workplace hazards
3. Purpose of the rule is to better inform the public about the dangers of workplace hazards
- With the hopes that this will encourage employers to increase their efforts to prevent work-related injuries and illnesses
- Employers would not want to be seen publically as a dangerous place; the rule acts as a deterrent
This blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute a legal opinion or advice.