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OSHA Proposes Public Injury Reporting

Monday, November 11, 2013

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Nearly 500,000 companies would start reporting workplace injuries and illnesses electronically, eventually making the data publicly accessible online, under a newly proposed federal rule.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration said its proposed rule to Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses, announced Thursday (Nov. 7), aims to increase worksite safety and statistical transparency.

The rule would change the way employers submit their OSHA 300 injury and illness records but would not add new recordkeeping requirements, the agency said.

Companies with 250 or more employees would have to submit their electronic records quarterly; companies with 20 to 250 employees would submit a summary report electronically once a year. Companies with fewer than 20 employees are not affected.

OSHA proposed injury reporting rule

An estimated three million workers were injured on the job in 2012. OSHA is proposing to make more data available online for public access.

The goal of the proposal is to "improve workplace safety and health through the collection and use of timely, establishment-specific injury and illness data," OSHA said.

The proposed rule was published Friday (Nov. 8) in the Federal Register.

3 Million Injuries

The announcement follows the Bureau of Labor Statistics' release of its annual Occupational Injuries and Illnesses report, which estimated that three million workers were injured on the job in 2012.

"Three million injuries are three million too many," Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor of Occupational Health and Safety, said in a press release.

"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," said Michaels.

Currently, OSHA has access to establishment-specific injury and illness information in a particular year only if the establishment was inspected, was part of OSHA's Data Initiative, or reported a fatality or a multiple hospitalization event.

© iStock / DNY59

OSHA's proposed rule would require companies with more than 250 employees to submit safety records quarterly. Smaller companies would submit annually.

The proposed rule was developed after a series of stakeholder meetings in 2010 to help OSHA gather information about electronic submission of establishment-specific injury and illness data, the agency said.

Who Would be Affected?

Under the proposal, about 38,000 companies that are already required to keep records and have more than 250 employees would submit their records to OSHA electronically on a quarterly basis, Michaels said during a media telephone conference Thursday.

About 440,000 companies of 20 or more employees in industries with high injury and illness rates would submit an electronic summary of work-related injuries and illnesses annually. Many employers currently report this information under OSHA's Data Initiative.

"The proposal does not add any new requirement to keep records; it only modifies an employer's obligation to transmit these records to OSHA," Michaels said.

OSHA says it will eventually post this information online, after removing personal and identifying information—a move encouraged by President Obama's Open Government Initiative.

Increasing Safety, Honing Enforcement

OSHA believes the rule will increase workplace safety by:

  • Helping OSHA target its compliance and enforcement efforts by identifying workplaces where workers are at the greatest risk;
  • Encouraging employers to maintain and improve workplace safety and health, and compare their own injury and illness rates to other employers;
  • Allowing potential employees to make more informed decisions about places to work; and
  • Allowing researchers to identify patterns of injuries or illnesses that are "masked by the aggregation of injury/illness data in existing data sources."

"We think that public exposure will improve the quality of data to a self-correcting mechanism," Michaels said, adding that senior managers will pay more attention to the accuracy of data if they are reported publicly.

Current Reporting 'Too Limited'

OSHA's current Recording and Reporting Occupational Injuries and Illnesses rule (29 CRF Part 1904) covers about 750,000 employers and 1.5 million establishments.

The rule requires employers to complete an injury and incident report for each injury and illness and record it in a log. Each year, these employers must use this information to complete a summary of work-related injuries and illnesses.

However, OSHA currently does not gather this information unless the establishment is inspected or is part of the OSHA Data Initiative. That initiative tracks 160,000 establishments with 20 or more employees in the manufacturing industry and 70 non-manufacturing industries with "historically high rates" of illness and injury.

workplace injuries
Koralie Hill / OSHA

The changes would give employers, employees, the government and researchers better access to data on workplace hazards,  said Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor of Occupational Health and Safety.

While OSHA keeps some of the Part 1904 records collected during inspections in its enforcement files, the information is "too limited" to be used in the ways OSHA hopes to use the information collected under the proposed rule.

Additionally, the information collected in the Data Initiative is only a summary, is not timely, and does not allow OSHA to identify specific hazards or problems. As a result, OSHA's Site-Specific Targeting Program is often based on data that are two or three years old.

With only 2,400 OSHA inspectors and millions of workplaces, OSHA says the proposed rule will help the agency better target its activities and identify which companies need help.

In 2010, for example, OSHA inspected approximately one percent of the establishments under its jurisdiction (about 98,000 inspections out of 7.5 million total establishments).

'Eager' for Input

The National Advisory Council on Occupational Safety and Health (NACOSH) has indicated its support of OSHA's efforts in consultation with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to modernize the system, OSHA said.

The public will have 90 days, through Feb. 6, 2014, to submit written comments on the proposed rule. OSHA will hold a public meeting on the proposed rule Jan. 9 in Washington, D.C.

Michaels said he was "eager" to hear ideas on how to collect data effectively, so they are useful and the process is not burdensome.

"Right now, the information we currently get really gets held for a long time before we put it up, so it's not as useful, and we recognize that," Michaels said.


Tagged categories: Accidents; Enforcement; Fatalities; Health and safety; OSHA

Comment from Billy Russell, (11/11/2013, 1:45 PM)

I have for a long time been openly calling for a tracking system that records the deaths and injuries on projects that includes the company name and principal owners name , this information should also include QP certification information as well , we can prevent our Brothers from dying if all the right information is made public , If you are going to make QP certification a requirement inorder to bid on multimillion dollar projects then QP should openly record and make public infractions by contractors so owners are making informed decisions before they pick a low bidder.

Comment from Jim Johnson, (11/12/2013, 1:55 PM)

This reporting requirement, if passed, is going to cost money to comply with. Do they have any plan for reimbursement of cost to the firm reporting, or is this just another assault on business? Though a reporting system would be "nice" is the user willing to pay for it? Legally I believe the EPA should pay for worker time required to comply, but then the EPA has no money, all they have is our tax dollars. This raises the question of is it the wisest use of our tax dollars? Is entering data into a database really going to reduce injuries or make workers safer? It seems these proposed rules changes raise more questions than anything.

Comment from Mike McCloud, (11/13/2013, 7:27 AM)

Do we report false claims also, as we must do now without an explanation.

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (11/14/2013, 8:09 AM)

Jim - is it that much of a burden for a business to type information into a web-form instead of a paper form? The business is supposed to be reporting these incidents already. The taxpayer then saves the cost of paying an OSHA contractor to re-enter the information into a web-form from the paper, archive the paper copy, et cetera. Plus the time to oversee the contractor, manage the data-entry contract, additional errors introduced by re-typing the information, et cetera.

Comment from Stacie Olson, (11/15/2013, 11:29 AM)

Tom, how many federal government websites have you done the actual reporting on? On a number of government contracts my company is required to submit basic information that sounds simple but the sites are fraught with problems and errors and technical support is extremely difficult to reach and typically not that useful when you do. my assistant has literally spent days on the phone trying to submit simple information that was required to be input before we could get paid. The government loves to add this little requirement and that little requirement and then another and another until we are all buried in bureaucracy. It does cost money, time and frustration and I don't see how it saves any taxpayer money. Yes it shifts more burden to the contractor, but they will still have the same staff to administer it.....nay more staff because they will have to have more technical programmer types to administer the program. AND it does nothing to improve safety for the workforce.

Comment from Jim Johnson, (11/15/2013, 12:26 PM)

Tom - Yes, it is that much of a burden, particularly when added to the thousands of other such burdens. As stated by Stacie, it gets to the point you have to hire additional help just to abide by the thousands of new rules and regulations. Last year over 10,000 new regulations were enacted and this year there will be another 10,000 new regulations enacted. That is just crazy! Plus, as Stacie stated, it does nothing to improve safety for the workforce.

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