The new electronic record-keeping rule finalized by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) will require employers to submit injury and illness report information directly to OSHA in electronic form. OSHA will then remove identifying information from these reports and make them public and searchable in a database.
Officials hope the new requirements will improve worker safety nationwide. Specifically, they are counting on the notion that by making this injury information public, employers will want to avoid a bad reputation. They want not only to improve public relations, but also ensure they will still attract the best and brightest workers. Potential employees who can easily access a company’s poor safety track record are going to be reticent to even apply.
It’s worth noting the new rule isn’t applicable to every employer. It will apply to employers in certain industries designated, “high hazard.” Plus, the rule also has a provision that extends further anti-retaliation protections to employees who report workplace safety issues or workplace injuries.
OSHA offers this list of high-hazard industries, which includes:
- Agriculture, forestry, fishing & hunting
- Charter bus/ taxi service
- Grocery stores
- Department stores
- Urban transit
- Warehousing and storage
- Auto repair industry
- Hospital/ health workers
- Many more
Qualifying employers also will have 20 to 249 employees and must report the information quarterly. Businesses with 250 or more employees can submit annual forms, with the first deadline being July 1, 2017.
The rule will be effective August 10, 2016.
As far as the anti-retaliation measure, the rule bars employers from discouraging workers to report a workplace injury or illness. The rule further clarifies that current rules for workplace reporting requirements have to be reasonable, and can’t discourage workers from coming forward. OSHA had to implement this rule because some employers are notorious for workplace injury reporting requirements that mandate the worker has to “immediately” report the injury. In some cases, workers didn’t initially think the injury was serious enough to warrant a report, but later realized it was a bigger issue than previously believed. However, when they went forward with reporting, they were reprimanded or even terminated for failure to immediately report the injury. This issue has been raised in many workers’ compensation cases.
It’s estimated more than 3 million workers suffer some type of work-related injury or illness every year, though that is likely a gross underestimate because not all incidents are reported.
But even when they are reported, the fact that the public can’t readily access that information means there is little accountability for workplaces that flout safety guidelines and laws.
According to Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA, David Michaels, high injury rates at an organization are a clear indicator of poor management.
The rule has been many years in the making. It was proposed and rejected on several occasions.
There has been much praise for the move, including from AFL-CIO, a union organization. The president of that organization said many companies fight to keep reported injury rates low by disciplining workers for each and every injury or retaliating in other ways. This, he said, should help curb some of those actions.
For information on Atlanta work injury compensation, contact J. Franklin Burns, P.C., at 1-404-303-7770.
Final Rule Issued to Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses, May 2016, OSHA
More Blog Entries:
Nichols v. Jacobsen – Exclusive Remedy of Workers’ Compensation, May 15, 2016, Atlanta Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog