Worker Safety: Will OSHA’s New Record-Keeping Regulations Improve Safety?

OSHA, Letters OSHA for acronym of Occupational Safety and Health Administration

Much debate still exists about OSHA’s final rule on recordkeeping and, more importantly, on OSHA making that information public.  Here, again, are the facts (as first published in Industrial Safety & Hygiene News):

FACT: Under the new rule, all establishments with 250 or more employees in industries covered by the recordkeeping regulation must electronically submit to OSHA injury and illness information from OSHA Forms 300, 300A, and 301. Establishments with 20-249 employees in “”certain industries* must electronically submit information from OSHA Form 300A only.

The new requirements take effect August 10, 2016, with phased-in data submissions beginning in 2017. These requirements do not add to or change an employer’s obligation to complete and retain injury and illness records under the Recording and Reporting Occupational Injuries and Illnesses regulation.

AND THE INDUSTRY REACTION:  OSHA’s new electronic recordkeeping rule is not winning approval from America’s oldest safety profession. The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) says the final rule requiring employers in high-hazard industries to submit injury and illness data for posting on the OSHA website will not achieve the goals the agency has set for it.

“The rule’s emphasis on data collected after injuries and fatalities occur is a step backward for safety professionals who work hard to move organizations toward measuring leading indicators, which better indicate how to avoid injuries and illnesses,” said ASSE President Michael Belcher.

“Injury and Illness rates were never intended to be used as a performance measurement, but that’s exactly what’s going to happen if they are published. Given the difficulty the DOT is having defending its Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program’s publishing of motor carrier roadside inspection data, OSHA should reconsider the complex data interpretation issues even the safest employers will face when the rule goes into effect.” Belcher added that the new standard will not have the desired effect on companies that already do not adequately report the data and are not committed to their workers’ safety. “As this rule is implemented, OSHA will still need to improve its efforts to identify the worst employers so it can focus its limited resources to workplaces where the best gains in safety can and need to be achieved.”

But, OSHA’s Chief, Dr. David Michaels, said making company-specific injury and illness data publicly available will motivate employers to improve their workplace safety, and give them benchmarks with comparable companies and industries to use when measuring their safety performance.

Will the published results become a performance measurement with the focus shifting to keeping a good record for individual performance reviews (job security and raises) versus improving workplace safety and eliminating hazards? Will those who are not committed to safety get a “wake-up call” by public exposure of a poor safety record or simply “cook the books” to hide the true level of unsafe practices in their workplace? Only the actual changes to compliance levels over time will tell the true outcome.

Published by Stephen Kovatch

Senior Client Manager  Stephen J. Kovatch focuses on assisting clients in establishing corporate regulatory compliance programs in the areas of air, water, and waste management. Mr. Kovatch also provides direction to industrial facility owners who are active in the transaction of contaminated property by defining objectives, coordinating soil and water sampling protocols, risk assessment, and remedial / cleanup activities. He frequently represents clients in property sales negotiations and regulatory agency and insurance proceedings.

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