OSHA’s final rule to ‘nudge’ employers to prevent workplace injuries, illnesses

Posted by BCTGM - May 11, 2016 - Health & Safety, OSHA News - No Comments
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New federal requirements take effect August 10, 2016

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration today issued a final rule to modernize injury data collection to better inform workers, employers, the public and OSHA about workplace hazards. With this new rule, OSHA is applying the insights of behavioral economics to improve workplace safety and prevent injuries and illnesses.

OSHA requires many employers to keep a record of injuries and illnesses to help these employers and their employees identify hazards, fix problems and prevent additional injuries and illnesses. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports more than three million workers suffer a workplace injury or illness every year. Currently, little or no information about worker injuries and illnesses at individual employers is made public or available to OSHA. Under the new rule, employers in high-hazard industries will send OSHA injury and illness data that the employers are already required to collect, for posting on the agency’s website.

Just as public disclosure of their kitchens’ sanitary conditions encourages restaurant owners to improve food safety, OSHA expects that public disclosure of work injury data will encourage employers to increase their efforts to prevent work-related injuries and illnesses.

To ensure that the injury data on OSHA logs are accurate and complete, the final rule also promotes an employee’s right to report injuries and illnesses without fear of retaliation, and clarifies that an employer must have a reasonable procedure for reporting work-related injuries that does not discourage employees from reporting. This aspect of the rule targets employer programs and policies that, while nominally promoting safety, have the effect of discouraging workers from reporting injuries and, in turn leading to incomplete or inaccurate records of workplace hazards.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said the new rules will modernize workplace injury reporting and protect workers who report injuries:

“Until now, most workplace injury records have only been available at the workplace, making it impossible to know which employers have bad or good injury records.  Employers in high hazard industries will now have to electronically submit a summary of their firms’ injuries and illnesses to OSHA each year, and large employers will have to submit more detailed injury and illness information.  OSHA, workers and the public will have access to this information.

This new transparency will assist OSHA and workers in identifying hazardous workplaces. In addition, employers will be able to compare their records with other employers in their industry and public health officials and researchers will be able to identify emerging trends. Most importantly, this data will help prevent future injuries, illnesses and deaths.

We are pleased that the new rules also include important protections to ensure that workers can report injuries without fear of retaliation. For far too long, in an effort to keep reported injury rates low, employers have retaliated against workers for reporting injuries, disciplining them for every injury or creating barriers to reporting. Now these violations will be subject to citations and penalties.  With these stronger protections, workers will be more willing to report injuries, which will help with overall prevention.”

Using data collected under the new rule, OSHA will create the largest publicly available data set on work injuries and illnesses, enabling researchers to better study injury causation, identify new workplace safety hazards before they become widespread and evaluate the effectiveness of injury and illness prevention activities. OSHA will remove all personally identifiable information associated with the data before it is publicly accessible.

Under the new rule, all establishments with 250 or more employees in industries covered by the recordkeeping regulation must electronically submit to OSHA injury and illness information from OSHA Forms 300, 300A, and 301. Establishments with 20-249 employees in certain industries must electronically submit information from OSHA Form 300A only.

The new requirements take effect Aug. 10, 2016, with phased in data submissions beginning in 2017. These requirements do not add to or change an employer’s obligation to complete and retain injury and illness records under the Recording and Reporting Occupational Injuries and Illnesses regulation.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit www.osha.gov.