Last Friday, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration published proposed regulations overhauling employer obligations with respect to employee workplace injury and illness reporting. The new rules do not make changes to the criteria for recording illnesses and injuries, but significantly change the way this information must be provided to OSHA.
Under current rules, non-exempt employers record eligible incidents on OSHA Form 300 and prepare an annual summary of such information. Some employers in certain industries with high injury rates submit this information to OSHA, but most simply maintain it in the event of an inspection. The proposed regulations would change these obligations by requiring the following:
- Employers with locations employing 250 or more workers would electronically submit workplace injury and illness information to OSHA on a quarterly basis.
- Non-exempt employer establishments with 20 or more employees in certain designated industries would electronically submit the summary injury and illness information to OSHA on an annual basis. This would replace the current OSHA survey process.
- OSHA would require that responses to any additional agency inquiries regarding employer injury and illness information be filed electronically.
OSHA justified the new requirements by noting the efficiency of electronic filing, and by the more timely and accurate information available to the agency. OSHA also intends to make this information available to the public through an electronic database. This would not require a Freedom of Information Act or other request to the agency to access.
Employers may have concerns about open public access to Form 300 injury and illness information. For example, potential customers could use this information to disqualify certain companies from bidding on supply or service work. OSHA has already expressed its concern over the accuracy of employer injury and illness reports. Making this information readily available to the public could cause some employers to err on the side of underreporting borderline incidents.
OSHA will be accepting comments on the proposed rules through February 6, 2014. Final rules may be issued later next year.