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May
2016
17

OSHA Boosting Public Record-Keeping of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses; Usual Suspects Cry Foul

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OSHA has issued a new final rule that will require employers to keep a record of its employees’ injuries and illnesses in hopes of identifying hazards and preventing additional or similar injuries and illnesses.  The big data will be available on the Internet for all to see.

According to OSHA, the new final rule uses basic behavioral economics to improve workplace safety. It 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.  Speaking to the press, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, Dr. David Michaels, dismissed critics of the regulation who believe it is an overreach. Michaels notes that as few as one seventh of American workplaces are required to track illness and injuries.

“Since high injury rates are a sign of poor management, no employer wants to be seen publicly as operating a dangerous workplace.  Our new reporting requirements will ‘nudge’ employers to prevent worker injuries and illnesses to demonstrate to investors, job seekers, customers and the public that they operate safe and well-managed facilities. Access to injury data will also help OSHA better target our compliance assistance and enforcement resources at establishments where workers are at greatest risk, and enable ‘big data’ researchers to apply their skills to making workplaces safer.”

The regulation was welcomed by the AFL-CIO.  In a statement, President Richard Trumka said:

“The new OSHA injury reporting rules will bring workplace injury and illness reporting into the 21st century and provide important new protections to workers who report injuries.  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.

Many opponents of the rule use the tired argument that it will be burdensome for businesses. Others, such as the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE), suggest “injury and Illness rates were never intended to be used as a performance measurement.” From their president, Michael Belcher:

“ASSE reiterates its concern that OSHA’s Electronic Recordkeeping rule cannot advance worker safety as well as OSHA hopes.  The rule’s emphasis on data collected after injuries and fatalities occur is a step backward for safety professionals who work hard to move organizations toward measuring leading indicators, which better indicate how to avoid injuries and illnesses.”

Not surprisingly, the rule is also opposed by the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC), a group with a history of opposing worker-supportive policies.  Greg Sizemore, vice president of health, safety, environment and workforce development for the ABC, said:

“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.”

EHS Today, a pro-safety group, disagrees. The data collected, along with predictive analytics, could create a safer overall work environment in America, they wrote, arguing that the injury data will help OSHA better target its compliance assistance and enforcement resources at businesses where workers are at the greatest risk:

According to OSHA, 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.

The new final rule will take effect on August 10, 2016.  

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One Comment on “OSHA Boosting Public Record-Keeping of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses; Usual Suspects Cry Foul”

  1. Employees deserve Employers who practice safe work practices.
    OSHA has few inspectors.
    Employers are able to side step Employee protections, without consequence.
    Work comp remedies are totally inadequate and do not deter companies who place profit before saving lives and reducing injuries.

    Mother of Employee Electrocuted at Workplace

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