New OSHA Rule Requires Companies to Make Records Public
It used to be that OSHA primarily had access to a company's OSHA logs when requested as part of an investigation. As such, OSHA, and the public, had little to no information about worker injuries and illnesses. All of that has changed now with OSHA’s new disclosure rule.
The new rule, published on May 11, 2016, and effective Jan. 1, 2017, requires certain employers to electronically submit injury and illness data to OSHA. While these companies are currently required to internally record injury and illness data on OSHA forms, an extra administrative step has been added wherein companies must provide this information to OSHA. The agency is planning to publish much of the information on its website.
Companies with 250 or more employees in industries covered by the record-keeping regulation must submit their OSHA 300 logs, the accompanying 301 descriptions and the 300A summary forms to OSHA on an annual basis. Companies must provide their 2016 injuries and illnesses by July 1, 2017, and their 2017 information by July 1, 2018. Beginning in 2019, the information must be submitted by March 2 of each year.
Companies with 20-249 employees in certain high-risk industries such as agriculture, forestry, construction, and manufacturing must submit their 300A summary forms to OSHA for 2016 injuries and illnesses by July 1, 2017, and their 2017 information by July 1, 2018. Starting in 2019, the information must be submitted by March 2 of each year.
The Secretary of Labor for OSHA, Dr. David Michaels, believes that this new requirement will "nudge" employers to "prevent worker injuries and illness to demonstrate to investors, job seekers, customers, and the public that they operate safe and well-managed facilities." OSHA hopes to be able to use this information to target employers who put their employees at the greatest risk for injuries and illnesses
The final rule also reinforces an employee’s right to report injuries and illnesses without fear of retaliation. It requires that employers must have a "reasonable" procedure for reporting injuries and illnesses and specifically targets policies (like incentive programs) that, while "nominally" promoting safety, have the effect of discouraging reporting.
Now is the time to review your policies to ensure they are compliant and would not be viewed adversely by OSHA. Given that specific injury and illness information will be made public, it is even more important that the information be accurate and complete. Inaccurate information can be a red flag for OSHA to initiate a comprehensive investigation of a company’s entire safety program.