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