The new workplace injury anti-retaliation rules were supposed to be in place this month. However, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced it will delay enforcement of some portions of it until November.
News of the delay comes as corporations from across the country raised a host of questions – and voiced considerable opposition – regarding the measure.
Although the new rule is largely favorable to injured workers, it has not been received well by employers. Now, those companies will have more time to make sure they are in compliance.
What is it that specifically irks these companies? Well, there are a few different things happening.
The first is the electronic reporting requirement. This provision of the rule requires that employers electronically submit their illness and injury data. Keep in mind: This is something companies are already supposed to be recording. With electronic reporting, OSHA officials say the information will be faster and more accurate – and will be made public.
This last part has some employers upset. The thinking from OSHA is that the regulation will “nudge” employers to establish safer working environments. If they know work injury reports will be available for anyone to review, they will be more likely to ensure their processes are safer. That aspect of the rule formally takes effect Jan. 1, 2017, although some employers are already lining up to have the new system installed.
Another element that is ruffling feathers is the anti-retaliation provision. Specifically, employers are going to have to tread very carefully if they want to drug test workers after they have reported a workplace injury. It had for a long time been standard policy for companies to drug test workers who had been involved in any kind of a work-related injury. And of course, evidence of on-the-job intoxication that contributes to or causes a workplace injury can be used to deny workers’ compensation benefits. However, if superiors don’t have a reason to suspect drugs or alcohol played a role in the incident or if the available testing isn’t likely to give an accurate idea of whether the worker was intoxicated at the time of the incident, OSHA has said drug testing should be off the table. The reasoning is that blanket testing requirements may make workers reticent to report work injuries.
Initially, this requirement was going to start being enforced Aug. 10, 2016. However, OSHA has said it will now give employers until Nov. 1st to comply.
The new rule also requires companies to notify workers that they won’t be retaliated against for reporting work-related injuries.
There is also a rule against incentive programs that promise workers certain benefits if they agree not to report their on-the-job injuries or illnesses.
It’s worth pointing out: The agency hasn’t banned employee drug testing altogether. Rather, it has made it clear that companies can’t wield it as a blanket deterrent for reporting work accidents and illnesses.
OSHA has said it will use this additional three months to reach out to employers and help answers questions about policies that may run afoul of the new rules and how best to abide them.
For information on Atlanta work injury compensation, contact J. Franklin Burns, P.C., at 1-404-920-4708 .