OSHA's Final Rule on Tracking Workplace Injuries, Illnesses Creates Big Data

OSHA's Final Rule on Tracking Workplace Injuries, Illnesses Creates Big Data

The final rule requires employers in certain industries to electronically submit to OSHA injury and illness data that employers are already required to keep under existing OSHA regulations.

OSHA has issued a final rule in revising its Recording and Reporting Occupational Injuries and Illnesses regulation, causing a bit of negative response from the industry. The final rule requires employers in certain industries to electronically submit to OSHA injury and illness data that employers are already required to keep under existing OSHA regulations.

The frequency and content of these establishment-specific submissions is set in the final rule and depends on the size and industry of the employer. OSHA intends to post the data on a publicly accessible website.

The final rule also amends OSHA’s recordkeeping regulation to update requirements on how employers inform employees to report work-related injuries and illnesses to their employer. The final rule requires employers to inform employees of their right to report work-related injuries and illnesses free from retaliation; clarifies the existing implicit requirement that an employer’s procedure for reporting work-related injuries and illnesses must be reasonable and not deter or discourage employees from reporting; and incorporates the existing statutory prohibition on retaliating against employees for reporting work-related injuries or illnesses.

With this new rule, the agency says it is applying the insights of behavioral economics to improve workplace safety and prevent injuries and illnesses, EHS Today reported. The new regulation will require approximately 432,000 workplaces with 20-249 employees in high hazard industries and 34,000 workplaces with more than 250 employees to upload injury and illness data or summaries to OSHA on an annual basis.

According to EHS Today, OSHA compares the public posting of workplace injuries and illnesses to the public disclosure of restaurants’ sanitary conditions, claiming public restaurant ratings encourage restaurant owners to improve food safety. OSHA says the availability of these data will enable prospective employees to identify workplaces where their risk of injury is lowest; as a result, employers competing to hire the best workers will make injury prevention a higher priority. Access to these data will also enable employers to benchmark their safety and health performance against industry leaders, to improve their own safety programs. 

ABC and ASA's Response

But industry associations are not so welcoming of the changes. The Associated Builders and Contractors released at a statement the OSHA electronic recordkeeping rule creates a series of problems.

“OSHA created a rule that does nothing to achieve its stated goal of reducing workplace injuries and illnesses and ignored the concerns from industry that this rulemaking will have unintended negative consequences,” said ABC vice president of health, safety, environment and workforce development Greg Sizemore. “Associated Builders and Contractors is committed to working with our members and OSHA to create safe construction work environments. However, in departing from its current ’no fault’ recordkeeping system, OSHA has empowered itself to disseminate records and data to the public that fails to show the complete narrative of a company’s safety record or its efforts to promote a safe work environment."

“Additionally, OSHA has exceeded its authority by forcing companies to reveal confidential business details to the public,” said Sizemore. “In the past, OSHA has recognized sensitive information, such as the number of hours worked by employees on a project, as ‘privileged and confidential.’ However, in departing from this opinion OSHA will give competitors undue access to business processes that should remain confidential.”

ASA strongly opposed OSHA making public employer-specific information when the agency published the rule in 2013. ASA stated that it is opposed to “OSHA requiring employers to make such individual employer-related data available to the general public, particularly since there appears to be little, if any data demonstrating that such public disclosure furthers OSHA’s mission.”

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