On May 11, 2016, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration finalized its 2013 proposed rule aimed at improving tracking of workplace injuries, increasing transparency and encouraging employees to report violations.

Where It Came From

This rule stems from a concerted effort by this Presidential administration to increase governmental transparency and public access to information as articulated in the Open Government Initiative. OSHA also contends electronic reporting will improve safety through increased access to establishment-specific injury and illness information, promote healthy competition between employers to improve safety programs and provide more efficient means of identifying and removing health hazards.

What It Requires

For those employers already required to keep injury and illness information or “OSHA logs,” this rule now requires you to also submit these forms electronically. Specifically, employers with 250 or more employees must submit 2016 Form 300A (Summary of Work Related Injuries and Illnesses) data by July 1, 2017. 2017 data recordable on Form 300A, Form 300 (Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses) and Form 301 (Injury and Illness Incident Report) must be submitted electronically by July 1, 2018. This rule is not just for large scale employers. It also requires employers with 20-249 employees in high risk industries such as utilities, construction, grocery stores, waste treatment or similar to submit Form 300A on the same timetable. As of 2019, the reporting requirement date changes to March 2nd. OSHA also has the right to seek this information from other employers not typically submitting this information, but only upon written notice.

The rule also includes certain provisions aimed at encouraging employees to accurately and completely report workplace injuries. Specifically, employers must inform employees of their right to report injuries or illnesses without retaliation; have a procedure for reporting that is reasonable and not aimed at discouraging reporting; and may not retaliate against employees. For the most part, these provisions are not new, as retaliation for such a report has always been prohibited. But, much like the aim in requiring electronic submission of records, these posting and procedural requirements are designed to increase transparency and ensure full and accurate reporting.

States operating their own safety and health programs must also adopt substantially similar requirements within six months of publication of this rule.

What It Means

Qualifying employers will need to maintain records electronically and submit these forms according to the timetable above, as well as continue maintaining/submitting the OSHA logs. Industry specific data will then be publicly available on OSHA’s website and may be used as a benchmark for safety and health performance; theoretically to encourage employers to improve their programs when measured against the industry leaders. On the policy side, employers should review their OSHA posting or notification guidelines to make sure employees are adequately informed of their rights. The reporting process should also be reviewed to ensure there are not hidden deterrents or arguable roadblocks for employees to report. Finally, all management and HR personnel should be reminded of the no retaliation policy related to these types of complaints (as well as many others).