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OSHA to hear more on electronic injury, illness records submission

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has extended to mid-October the comment period on a proposed rule for tracking of workplace injuries and illnesses. A proposal published in November 2013 would add to the agency’s recordkeeping regulation specific requirements for electronic submission of information employers already maintain.

Participants in a recent public meeting expressed concern that the proposal a) may create motivation for employers to under-record injuries and illnesses, since each covered establishment’s injury and illness data would become publicly available on OSHA’s website; and, b) would lead to an increase in the number of employers who adopt practices that discourage employees from reporting recordable injuries and illnesses. OSHA is concerned that the accuracy of the data collected under the new proposal could be compromised if employers adopt such practices.

“[We] want to make sure employers, employees and the public have access to the most accurate data about injuries and illnesses in their workplaces so that they can take the most appropriate steps to protect worker safety and health,” says Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels.

OSHA is therefore soliciting comments on whether to amend the proposed rule to: 1) require that employers inform their employees of their right to report injuries and illnesses; 2) more clearly communicate the requirement that any injury and illness reporting requirements established by the employer be reasonable and not unduly burdensome; and, 3) provide OSHA an additional remedy to prohibit employers from taking adverse action against employees for reporting injuries and illnesses. Comments can be submitted through the federal e-Rulemaking Portal, www.regulations.gov.

The agency’s initial proposal dovetailed a Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Injuries and Illnesses report for 2012, to which Dr. Michaels responded: “Three million injuries are three million too many. With the changes being proposed in this rule, employers, employees, the government and researchers will have better access to data that will encourage earlier abatement of hazards and result in improved programs to reduce workplace hazards and prevent injuries, illnesses and fatalities.”