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OSHA applies behavioral economics via injury reporting rule’s public disclosure provisions

Sources: Occupational Safety and Health Administration; CP staff

OSHA aims to modernize injury data collection to better inform workers, employers and the public about workplace hazards through a final injury- and illness-reporting rule. Effective August 10 with phased implementation carrying into 2017, it requires a) all establishments with 250 or more employees in industries covered by the recordkeeping regulation to electronically submit OSHA Forms 300, 300A, and 301 injury and illness information; and, b) establishments with 20-249 employees in certain industries to electronically submit Form 300A information.

Employers in high-hazard industries will send OSHA data they are already required to collect for posting on the agency's website. Agency officials note that the new rule applies insights of behavioral economics to improve workplace safety and prevent injuries and illnesses. "Since high injury rates are a sign of poor management, no employer wants to be seen publicly as operating a dangerous workplace," says Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. "Our new reporting requirements will 'nudge' employers to prevent worker injuries and illnesses to demonstrate to investors, job seekers, customers and the public that they operate safe and well-managed facilities. Access to injury data will also help OSHA better target compliance assistance and enforcement resources at establishments where workers are at greatest risk, and enable 'big data' researchers to apply their skills to making workplaces safer."

Just as public disclosure of kitchens' sanitary conditions encourages restaurant owners to improve food safety, he adds, OSHA expects that public disclosure of work injury data will encourage employers to increase their efforts to prevent work-related injuries and illnesses. The availability of these data will enable prospective employees to identify workplaces where their risk of injury is lowest; as a result, employers competing to hire the best workers will make injury prevention a higher priority. Access to these data will also enable employers to benchmark their safety and health performance against industry leaders.

The new rule positions OSHA to create the largest publicly available data set on work injuries and illnesses, enabling researchers to better study injury causation; identify new workplace safety hazards before they become widespread; and, evaluate the effectiveness of injury and illness prevention activities. OSHA will remove all personally identifiable information associated with the data before it is publicly accessible.

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