On Wednesday, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued final regulations changing the way businesses report injury and illness experience. The new rules take effect January 1, 2017, and will for the first time allow public access to employer reports. Under current OSHA regulations, covered employers must collect occupational injury and illness information and prepare an annual summary of these incidents. Under the new rules, employers with over 20 employees at a covered establishment must electronically submit the Form 300A and related information to OSHA depending upon the size of the business on an annual basis.
OSHA will post establishment-specific injury and illness data on its website, but no individual employees will be identified. Employers in states with their own OSHA enforcement programs (such as North Carolina and South Carolina) will be subject to similar reporting and posting requirements. OSHA also intends to roll back the date for such reporting over time, so that it is available earlier in the year. Finally, the new rules require employers to provide notice (typically through an amended OSHA rights poster) to employees of their right to report workplace injuries or illnesses without retaliation.
According to OSHA, public access to injury experience will incentivize employers to take steps to reduce such incidents. However, OSHA has also communicated in recent years its belief that employers underreport their actual employee injury rates under the existing rules. When faced with public access to such records, some employers may decide not to record reportable incidents.
This information will clearly be used by OSHA for purposes of scheduling safety audits. Inevitably, the data will also be obtained unions for organizing purposes and by plaintiffs’ attorneys for purposes of business solicitation and litigation against employers.