The Law @ Work

New OSHA Rule Will Require Electronic Submission of Workplace Injuries

by John S. Gannon

The U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) issued a final rule on May 11, 2016, that will require employers to electronically submit worker injury and illness data to the agency starting in 2017.  OSHA explained in a News Release that the agency intends to post the data on its public website so that “prospective employees [can] identify workplaces where their risk of injury is lowest.”  Of course, the information will also be available to other interested parties, including customers, competitors, attorneys and union organizers.

Employers that are not exempt from OSHA’s injury and illness recordkeeping rules are already required to keep track of their workers’ injuries and illnesses in what is commonly called an “OSHA log.”  However, only certain serious injuries currently require direct reporting to OSHA, such as work-related fatalities, amputations and inpatient hospitalizations.   The new rule will require non-exempt employers to directly report far more injury and illness data on an annual basis.

The reporting frequency and content will vary depending on the size and industry of the employer.  Establishments with 250 or more employees that are currently required to keep OSHA injury and illness records must electronically submit information from all OSHA Forms 300—including Form 300 (Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses); Form 300A (Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses); and Form 301 (Injury and Illness Incident Report)—by July 1 each year.  However, in 2017, only information on the Form 300A will need to be submitted.  Establishments with 20-249 employees that are classified in certain industries with historically high rates of occupational injuries and illnesses only need to electronically submit information from OSHA Form 300A.  Notably, the electronic submission requirements do not change an employer’s obligation to complete and retain injury and illness records.

The new rule also addresses OSHA’s existing anti-retaliation provisions, emphasizing three factors to promote complete and accurate reporting:

  1. Employers must inform employees of their right to report work-related injuries and illnesses free from retaliation;
  2. An employer’s procedure for reporting work-related injuries and illnesses must be reasonable and must not deter or discourage employees from reporting; and
  3. An employer may not retaliate against employees for reporting work-related injuries or illnesses.

If your Handbook does not address these points of emphasis, it might be time for an update.

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