New Rule Takes Effect On Aug. 10th 2016
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration today issued a final rule to modernize injury data collection to better inform workers, employers, the public and OSHA about workplace hazards. With this new rule, OSHA is applying the insights of behavioral economics to improve workplace safety and prevent injuries and illnesses.
OSHA requires many employers to keep a record* of injuries and illnesses to help these employers and their employees identify hazards, fix problems and prevent additional injuries and illnesses. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports more than three million workers suffer a workplace injury or illness every year. Currently, little or no information about worker injuries and illnesses at individual employers is made public or available to OSHA. Under the new rule, employers in high-hazard industries will send OSHA injury and illness data that the employers are already required to collect, for posting on the agency’s website.
Just as public disclosure of their kitchens’ sanitary conditions encourages restaurant owners to improve food safety, OSHA expects that public disclosure of work injury data will encourage employers to increase their efforts to prevent work-related injuries and illnesses.
“Since high injury rates are a sign of poor management, no employer wants to be seen publicly as operating a dangerous workplace,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. “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.”
After OSHA announced the rule, Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO, released the following statement:
Until now, most workplace injury records have only been available at the workplace, making it impossible to know which employers have bad or good injury records. Employers in high hazard industries will now have to electronically submit a summary of their firms’ injuries and illnesses to OSHA each year, and large employers will have to submit more detailed injury and illness information. OSHA, workers and the public will have access to this information.
This new transparency will assist OSHA and workers in identifying hazardous workplaces. In addition, employers will be able to compare their records with other employers in their industry and public health officials and researchers will be able to identify emerging trends. Most importantly, this data will help prevent future injuries, illnesses and deaths.
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.
The National Council for Occupational Safety and Health’s Acting Executive Director, Jessica Martinez, was also pleased to hear of the rule change stating, “Accurate and timely reporting of on-the-job injuries and illnesses is one of the best tools we have to learn how to make workplaces safer.”
Martinez continued, “The new OSHA recordkeeping rule, announced today in the Federal Register, is an important step towards transparency. By requiring electronic submissions every quarter and making the data public, this common-sense regulation will help us learn more about how workers are hurt and become sick on the job.
“The more we know, the more we can do to prevent injuries and illnesses from happening in the first place, with effective safety programs centered on worker participation,” Martinez concluded.
The availability of this 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 this data will also enable employers to benchmark their safety and health performance against industry leaders, to improve their own safety programs.
Using data collected under the new rule, OSHA will create the largest publicly available data set on work injuries and illnesses, enabling researchers to better study injury causation, identify new workplace safety hazards before they become widespread and evaluate the effectiveness of injury and illness prevention activities. OSHA will remove all personally identifiable information associated with the data before it is publicly accessible.
To ensure that the injury data on OSHA logs are accurate and complete, the final rule also promotes an employee’s right to report injuries and illnesses without fear of retaliation, and clarifies 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.
The new requirements take effect Aug. 10, 2016, with phased in data submissions beginning in 2017.