Since OSHA’s inception, employers have been required to keep records of injuries and illnesses in their workplaces. There were several purposes behind this:
- To let employers examine their injury records for trends and use the information to prevent future injuries.
- To allow OSHA to use the information to target their enforcement efforts to the worst workplaces.
- To gather industry-wide data and examine larger trends (e.g., Are injury rates getting better or worse over time?)
Though employers had to track this information, they weren’t required to report much of it to OSHA. With the announcement of a new final rule on May 12th, 2016, those requirements are changing for employers in high-hazard industries like construction:
- Employers with 250+ or more employees must submit their OSHA Form 300A Summary electronically starting July 1, 2017 and their OSHA Form 300 Log and Form 301 Injury and Illness Incident Report starting July 1, 2018. (Note: These deadlines will change to March 2 starting in 2019.)
- Employers with 20-249 employees must submit their Form 300A Summary electronically starting July 1, 2017. These employers aren’t required to submit additional injury data under the new rule.
- Employers with less than 20 employees are exempt from these new requirements.
- State OSHA programs must adopt an equivalent rule by November 12, 2016.
- Reporting is only required once a year.
The most controversial part of the new rule is OSHA’s plan to post this injury and illness data on the agency’s website (after it is stripped of any personally identifiable information). The hope is that public disclosure of work injury data will pressure employers to prevent work-related injuries and illnesses, similar to how restaurants have to display scores for the cleanliness of their kitchens.
“In addition to improving worker safety and health, this rule also has the potential to help level the playing field for LIUNA’s signatory contractors,” says LIUNA General Secretary-Treasurer and LHSFNA Labor Co-Chairman Armand E. Sabitoni. “Transparency will only highlight the differences between LIUNA’s responsible signatory contractors and employers who keep costs low by putting workers at risk.”
OSHA is aware that posting this information online could create further incentives for dishonest employers to discourage reporting. To help prevent underreporting and encourage accurate data, the new rule also requires employers to:
- Inform employees of their right to report injuries and illnesses without fear of retaliation. This can be done using this OSHA poster.
- Have procedures for reporting injuries and illnesses that do not deter or discourage reporting.
- Not retaliate against employees for reporting.
Previously, if a worker was discriminated against for reporting an injury, they had to file a case under OSHA Act section 11(c). Now, OSHA can issue a citation against the employer for discrimination.
Forty-five years ago, injury records were kept on paper in filing cabinets. There were no personal computers, no Internet and no websites. But changes in technology have created new possibilities for injury reporting. Employers can now analyze data to see which department is sustaining the most injuries, where most back injuries are occurring or a host of other possibilities.
This new rule will help bring worker safety and health into the 21st century and provides an incentive for companies to make their workplaces even safer. Despite all the progress we have made, with three million workplace injuries a year in the U.S., there is still a long way to go.
[Scott Schneider is the LHSFNA’s Director of Occupational Safety and Health.]