An industry coalition, foreseeing “significant negative impacts” from OSHA’s proposed recordkeeping and reporting rule, has asked the agency “in the strongest possible terms” to withdraw it.
At a public meeting Jan. 9, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Coalition for Workplace Safety (CWS) cited a variety of reasons why OSHA’s proposal to require public disclosure of occupational safety and health injury and illness data is a bad idea.
OSHA’s proposed rule would require disclosure of company, location and incident specific information. “We know that this proposal will trigger malicious uses because these are already occurring without easy access to such specific information,” said Marc Freedman, Executive Director of Labor Law Policy at the Chamber.
Noting that a request for such disclosure was part of a wish list made to the Obama transition team by the AFLCIO in 2009, Freedman said, “Unions are known for taking company injury reports out of context when they are trying to organize an employer or pressure one during contract negotiations.”
Injury and illness records OSHA will require employers to submit will be devoid of context and will not give a complete picture of a company’s efforts to maintain a safe workplace, commented Jackson Lewis attorney Tressi Cordaro, speaking on behalf of the CWS, an employerassociation coalition.
The CWS said that, among a host of privacy concerns, the data will result in disclosure of information on the number of employees and hours worked that many companies consider confidential because they give insight into processes and could open up companies for hostile takeover by competitors or reveal proprietary information.
The proposed regulation presumes all recorded injuries and illnesses are preventable. The CWS pointed out that presumption overturns one OSHA adopted when recordkeeping requirements were revised in 2001. The foundation of those changes was a “no fault” recordkeeping system.
At the time, OSHA adopted a presumption that any injury or illness occurring in the workplace was assumed to be work-related. However, some clearly were not because they were outside the employer’s control. Since employers were only required to submit these records to OSHA upon request or as a part of a survey, the approach was accepted because there would be “no fault” attached if these types of injuries or illnesses were recorded. The CWS warned that if OSHA’s new presumption is adopted, an outcome could be that employers will think twice about recording injuries they believe are not work-related.
OSHA’s proposal requires electronic submission of the data, but fails to consider the impact of this mandate on small businesses which do not keep such records in electronic form or have ready access to computers or the internet. The measure understates costs, including for initial training on new system requirements compelled by the regulation and programming changes to existing recordkeeping systems. It also does not account for the increased training that will be required to make sure employees understand which injuries should be recorded or when they do not have to be recorded since there will now be significant consequences for making that decision correctly. OSHA asserts annual benefits would significantly exceed the annual costs, yet the agency has failed to adequately quantify those benefits, the CWS said.
The comment period for the proposal, entitled Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses, closes March 8, a Saturday