WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) – The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently finalized a set of new rules that require large companies to annually report workplace injuries and illnesses.
Megan Baroni, an environmental attorney for Robinson and Cole’s Environmental and Utilities Group who has monitored the changes, said the rules likely won’t be an undue burden for companies.
“OSHA regulations already required employers to keep records regarding workplace injuries and illnesses,” Baroni told Legal Newsline. “This new rule will require employers to provide those records to OSHA on an annual basis.”
The data will be transmitted to OSHA and posted on its website, and will be used by the federal agency to evaluate safety issues on an industry-by-industry basis.
But past the ability to use up-to-date information to forecast and head off industry-speficic hazards, Baroni said she thinks the public reporting requirements will be used to “nudge” employers to make better efforts to improve safety from the get-go.
“OSHA also plans to use this data to evaluate worker safety on an industry-by-industry basis,” she said. “OSHA plans to use this data to identify and forecast trends so that it can use its enforcement and compliance assistance resources more efficiently."
The information also will be available to the public, meaning employees will be armed with more data when trying to eliminate workplace hazards or file suit for a company ignoring those hazards.
“Ultimately, OSHA’s goal will be to identify more safety hazards and abate them before an injury or illness occurs,” she said.
Baroni said OSHA started updating record-keeping and reporting rules in 2014.
The new rules require all establishments with more than 250 employees to electronically submit the information from all three forms (300, 300A, and 301), while those with 20-249 employees in certain industries must electronically submit form 300A.
Establishments with more than 10 employees already have to keep records of occupational injuries and illnesses.
Those not reporting injuries to OSHA could face fines from $1,000 to $70,000.
In 2015, OSHA received 10,388 reports of severe work-related injuries, including 2,644 amputations. The manufacturing industry was the highest reporter, attributing 25 percent of the hospitalizations and 57 percent of the amputations.
The Federal Register reports that OSHA is estimating that the final rule will have total economic costs of $15 million per year, including $13.7 million per year to the private sector. It estimates total costs of $7.2 million per year for electronic submission for establishments with 250 or more employees and $4.6 million for electronic submission for establishments with 20 to 249 employees in designated industries.
Baroni said she thinks companies will respond to the public disclosure requirement without much cajoling, even though doing so could lead to increased enforcement activity or employee litigation.
One of those responses could be clamping down and mitigating some of the recurring safety issues before they become public knowledge or suable events.
She said she doesn’t suspect the reporting changes will lead to any mass sweeps of businesses, though those with a history of violations could be held to increased scrutiny.
“OSHA’s inspections will likely be more targeted towards industries and establishments with demonstrated safety issues,” Baroni said, “and increased visibility may result in more employee complaints as well.”