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OSHA Proposes Electronic Reporting Delay

Friday, June 30, 2017

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The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has officially proposed a delay to the compliance date of parts of its new electronic recordkeeping rule, days before some provisions were originally set to go into effect.

In an announcement late Tuesday (June 27), the Department of Labor confirmed that OSHA is moving to delay the electronic reporting compliance date to Dec. 1, five months later than the original compliance date of July 1. The delay, the agency says, will allow for “additional review into questions of law and policy.”

Laptop computer
© iStock.com / SamuelBrownNG

The new rule requires, among other provisions, that many employers submit workplace injury reports to OSHA electronically.

The regulation, officially titled the Final Rule to Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses, was put into place in May 2016. It requires, among other provisions, that many employers submit workplace injury reports to OSHA electronically. The rule does not change the information that employers must keep, but changes the way they are required to report it.

Employers required to submit injury reports electronically under the new rule include those with more than 250 employees that are required to keep records of workplace injuries, and those with between 20 and 249 employees that are in certain “high-risk” industries, including construction and manufacturing.

Delays, Challenges

OSHA announced in May that it would be proposing a delay, but did not provide specifics at that time. That announcement came shortly after news reports highlighted the fact that OSHA’s electronic reporting website, where affected employers would be required to submit their injury reports, was still not live.

Some industry groups have argued that OSHA's plan to publish injury reports online is an invasion of workers' privacy and would lead to the public shaming of employers. OSHA says the information collected will be made public, but also holds that no information made public will include personally identifiable information about individuals injured on the job.

Some Provisions in Effect

Other provisions of the rule, including anti-retaliation measures, have already taken effect. The rule, for example, prohibits the use of incentives for days without a reported injury, on the basis that these could encourage underreporting on-the-job injuries.

hardhat
© iStock.com / zdravkovic

Employers required to submit injury reports electronically under the new rule include those with between 20 and 249 employees that are in certain “high-risk” industries, including construction and manufacturing.

One controversial aspect of the rule is a ban on drug-testing workers who have been in a workplace incident and sustained injuries, unless drugs or alcohol are "likely to have contributed to the incident." OSHA says the provision aims to prevent retaliation against workers for filing injury reports; employers have challenged the rule, arguing that whether drugs or alcohol were in a worker’s system at the time of an incident is a crucial piece of information.

Court Challenge

The recordkeeping rule is currently subject to a suit in the federal court for the Northern District of Texas, brought by industry groups including the Associated Builders and Contractors and the National Association of Manufacturers. The plaintiffs in that case have until July 5 to submit a proposed summary judgment briefing, and attorneys for the Labor Department have until the same date to respond to motions to intervene in the case.

Judge Sam Lindsay previously ruled that the pending case was not sufficient to stay the provisions that had already taken effect. The court case itself, therefore, would not have prevented OSHA from enforcing compliance with the reporting provisions, but the agency chose to delay the compliance date for reasons other than the suit.

   

Tagged categories: Department of Labor; Government; Health and safety; OSHA

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