Many U.S. employers will soon have to electronically provide information about workplace-related injuries and illnesses to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, with the data being made available to the general public.
The final rule is scheduled to go into effect on Aug. 10, but the electronic reporting requirements won't be phased in until next year. OSHA officials compare the new rule to the way that restaurant sanitary code violations are public record. Restaurant owners, they contend, are more concerned about the cleanliness of their kitchen because they don't want a sanitary code violation to hurt their reputation.
Similarly, employers will likely be more concerned about the illnesses and injuries their employees suffer on the job if such information is made public. "Since high injury rates are a sign of poor management, no employer wants to be seen publicly as operating a dangerous workplace," David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, said in a news release.
The injury and illness data, which employers have already been required to collect, will be posted on OSHA's website.
The new OSHA rule requires electronic reporting for all businesses with more than 250 workers, which must file information from OSHA Forms 300, 300A, and 301. These larger businesses will only have to submit a Form 300A starting on July 1, 2017. Starting on the next deadline—July 1, 2018—large employers will have to submit all of the documents.
Starting July 1, 2017, businesses with fewer than 250 workers must submit information via the Form 300A summary data form if they are in certain industries such as construction or manufacturing.
On top of getting workplace injury and illness data posted online, the new final rule is meant to discourage employer policies that cause workers to avoid reporting on-the-job injuries. The final rule critiques practices such as employers who discipline workers who report an injury, test employees for drugs immediately after an accident, and provide rewards and incentives to employees who are not injured.
Exactly how OSHA plans to scrutinize the practices is not clear in the rule. What does appear clear is that the new rule could face legal battles, and already several pro-business groups claim the electronic reporting infringes on employers' rights. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has been one of the most outspoken critics of the new OSHA rule.
"The agency's excessive reporting requirements will lead to employers being falsely branded as unsafe and will not reflect a company's commitment to maintaining a safe workplace," said Randy Johnson, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Senior Vice president of Labor, Immigration, and Employee Benefits, in a news release. "Among the misuses of these records will be unions mischaracterizing employers in organizing and corporate campaigns, and trial lawyers bringing frivolous lawsuits."