On Wednesday, May 11, 2016, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) finalized a newly updated Rule governing employer responsibilities in recordkeeping and reporting regarding workplace injuries and illnesses. Effective in January 2017, the new Rule requires employers to electronically submit information about covered workplace injuries and illnesses to OSHA, for posting on the agency’s website. The new electronic submission requirements will apply to employers with 250 or more employees that are already required by OSHA to keep such records. Additionally, smaller businesses (those with 20-249 employees) may have to comply if they are in particularly dangerous industries.
Currently, OSHA (or an employee) may request work-related illness and injury records, and such records must be posted in the workplace. OSHA’s website already posts injury and illness data for more than 240,000 work sites collected between 2002 and 2011. What’s new in today’s Rule is that employers will now be required to send all such information to OSHA, and to send it electronically. It is estimated that 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.
To ensure that the injury data on an employer’s OSHA logs are accurate and complete, the final Rule also aims to encourage and promote an employee’s right to report injuries and illnesses without fear of retaliation, by clarifying 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.
U.S. Deputy Labor Secretary Chris Lu said that the new Rule will increase workplace transparency. “OSHA’s final Rule will modernize the current system by taking establishment-specific injury information that is already collected by employers and making it available to the public once it is cleaned of personally identifiable information,” Lu said. “The data, however, will only be accurate if employees feel free to report injuries and illnesses without fear of retaliation. To ensure complete and accurate reporting, the Rule includes provisions that protect the rights of workers who report these incidents.”
Workplace advocates and OSHA believe the Rule will encourage stricter compliance with workplace safety laws, and may make it easier to identify common occupational hazards. However, opponents to the Rule, like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, say the new requirements are overly burdensome and “provide special interest groups with information that can be misconstrued and distorted in a manner that does not reflect business’s commitment to the safety of this nation’s employees.”
This Newsletter is a publication of the law firm of Brunini, Grantham, Grower & Hewes, PLLC located in Jackson, Mississippi. This Newsletter is not designed or intended to provide legal or professional advice, as any such advice requires the consideration of the facts of the specific situation.
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