The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has revised its workplace injury and illness record-keeping regulations to require that records be submitted to OSHA electronically. Under existing regulations, records of workplace injuries and illnesses, such as OSHA 300 logs, are maintained at the worksite by the employer. If OSHA or the various state equivalent agencies in states that are authorized to regulate occupational safety (State Plan States) want to review those records, they must come to the worksite. Under the newly-revised regulations, employers with more than 250 employees, or employers in certain industries with less than 250 but more than 20 employees, will transmit these records to OSHA electronically. Below is a link to the May 12, 2016 Federal Register Notice:
For employers, there are several important ramifications beyond amending their programs to comply with the new requirements. First, OSHA plans to post this information on its website so that it is publicly available. Their stated aim is to “nudge” employers to improve occupational safety of their worksites by making this data publicly available in a manner than allows a comparison among various companies in the same industry. Unfortunately, occupational injury and illness records do not tell a complete story, a company may have an excellent safety program yet have unfortunate accidents (talk to any company that has had a long and proud “no lost time” record only to have a fluke event cause an unforeseeable injury). And at this time, the details of how the information will be presented are not known, so we do not know the degree to which some context will be provided. OSHA says that it wants this data to be useful for researchers to study trends in occupational injury and illness, so we should expect that there will be some ability to query and sort the records. Of course, this information could also prove useful to competitors, plaintiffs’ attorneys, unions, and others who may have interests not completely in line with those described by OSHA in support of the rule.
In addition to making the information publicly available, these records will also be used by OSHA to guide their enforcement efforts. Employers should presume that OSHA and their state counterparts in State Plan States will be reviewing this data to identify worksites to target for inspections. Currently, there are other ways that OSHA can obtain information on occupational injury and illnesses but nothing approaching the data set that they will assemble with this new rule. Companies that are submitting electronically should plan on reviewing the data when it becomes available on-line to determine for themselves how they stack up against others in their industry. This is one of the benefits touted by OSHA, encouraging employers to compare their performance to others in their industry and improving their workplace safety programs if they lag.
It is worth noting that this new rule will apply to employers even in State Plan States. Although state “OSHAs” are required to amend their regulations to be consistent with the new federal requirement, as with any other OSHA regulation, in this case the federal regulation will apply directly to employers in State Plan States, such as California. OSHA will then share that information with their state counterparts for use in their enforcement efforts.
The portions of the new regulations take effect August 10, 2016 but the first electronic record submittal will not be due until July 1, 2017.