In March, federal OSHA announced a proposed rulemaking to bring back its electronic recordkeeping rule. This rulemaking would have significant impacts on how employers report injuries and illnesses and how federal OSHA targets inspections.
The proposed recordkeeping rule would require the following:
- Employers in the highest-hazard industries (including construction) with 100 or more workers would need to submit their Forms 300 and 301 to OSHA electronically. Currently, those employers are only required to submit their 300A.
- Employers in high-hazard industries with 20 or more workers would continue to submit only their Form 300A.
- Employers not deemed to be in a high-hazard industry that have 250 or more workers would no longer need to submit their Form 300A.
[Note: Form 300A covers summary data, while Forms 300 and 301 include a more detailed log of workplace injuries and illnesses.]
Improving Workplace Injury Data Collection
If this recordkeeping rule sounds familiar, that’s because it was set to go into effect in 2017. A challenge during the Trump administration led to a 2019 ruling that certain employers only had to submit their Form 300A electronically.
“One of the main reasons to record workplace injuries is so employers are aware of existing hazards and can regularly assess the effectiveness of their safety and health protocols,” says LHSFNA Management Co-Chairman Noel C. Borck. “Modernizing the recordkeeping rule will allow OSHA to make this same assessment much more quickly.”
While employers are required to maintain a detailed record of workplace injuries and illnesses in their Form 300 and 301 logs, they aren’t currently required to send that information to OSHA. Instead, an OSHA inspector may request that information during a routine inspection or as part of a specific investigation to determine if an employer was taking the necessary steps to prevent known workplace hazards.
Under the current system, OSHA doesn’t receive detailed information on the almost three million recordable injuries and illnesses that happen each year in the U.S. Without case-specific injury and illness data, OSHA doesn’t get the level of detail necessary to analyze exactly how workers are being injured on the job and doesn’t get to use that information to direct their compliance assistance and enforcement efforts. Electronic recordkeeping would also enable OSHA to quickly conduct evaluations of different types of programs, initiatives and interventions in different industries and geographic areas.
In previous Lifelines articles, we’ve covered the need for federal OSHA and agencies like the Bureau of Labor Statistics to improve how worker injury data is collected, categorized and reported. Without that more data-driven approach, we’re left with an incomplete or inaccurate picture of the hazards facing workers within certain industries.
Privacy Concerns and Publicly Available Data
When this recordkeeping rule was initially passed in 2017, pushback from employers centered on concerns over worker privacy. That’s because OSHA planned to publish the information online after removing personally identifiable information such as workers’ names. Employers claimed to be concerned that workers’ privacy could still be violated, either through errors on OSHA’s part or due to other factors, such as instances when there are relatively few employers in a remote area.
In advancing the new proposed rule, OSHA says advancements in technology will ensure workers’ health information stays private. In addition, the agency points to benefits such as allowing employers to compare their own injury and illness rates with others in their industry.
Public disclosure of the data in Forms 300 and 301 would provide a powerful incentive for employers to improve safety and health conditions on the job. It would also give employers, workers, unions, public health researchers and others the means to better understand and develop solutions to address ongoing safety and health hazards.
The deadline for submitting comments to OSHA ended on June 30. You can read the LHSFNA’s comments in support of this revised recordkeeping rule by clicking here.