The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced recently that it intends to delay the initial deadline for compliance with its rule requiring employers to report accident and illness records to OSHA electronically. Under the original deadline, employers with over 250 workers and smaller employers in high hazard industries would have been required to begin electronic filing of certain OSHA-required forms on July 1, 2017. For a more detailed discussion of the electronic recordkeeping rule, go here. That deadline is now off and OSHA has promised a formal notification in the future with more information about revised deadlines.
The electronic record-keeping rule is of significant concern to many employers. There is no direct apparent tie so far between the Trump administration and OSHA’s delay. But, there is no denying that the business community is hopeful for significant changes in the obligation, if not a complete reversal. Electronic reporting will require employers to submit to OSHA records of illnesses and injuries at its facilities. As the rule is currently written, the information will be available to the public on OSHA’s website. Attached to the electronic record-keeping rule are other OSHA initiatives intended to restrict the possibility of retaliation against employees who report accidents or safety concerns. These include somewhat controversial OSHA “guidance” that limits employer policies on post-accident testing and employer incentive programs that include low accident rates as part of the trigger for rewards.
There has been no public official action by the Trump administration to take any of these initiatives off track. But, the recent announcement by OSHA of a delay in the initial enforcement deadline could be a signal of an intended change in course by OSHA, for whatever reasons. Other actions taken by OSHA in recent months might be a signal of an intention to pull back on the more controversial aspects of the rule. In February, OSHA removed from its website language explaining the rationale for public disclosure of electronically filed information. These steps, taken together, may indicate an intention to retreat to one extent or another on the electronic reporting rule. For now, what we know for certain is that the initial reporting deadline has been indefinitely postponed.