A new and very important rule will have come into effect on January 1st, 2017 for all safety professionals: it’s from none other than the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and it stipulates that employers must electronically submit injury and illness data that they already record. This is in tandem with the injury and illness data that all employers are already required to record on their onsite OSHA Injury and Illness forms.
Why then does OSHA insist on these electronic submissions? OSHA is of the opinion that, “public disclosure will encourage employers to improve workplace safety and provide valuable information to workers, job seekers, customers, researchers and the general public”. The Administration hopes that making such injury and illness information public will “nudge” (OSHA’s very own word) employers to focus more on safety than they might otherwise do. A “nudge” indicates that OSHA means business.
To which employers does this new rule specifically apply and how so? The OSHA site is instructive in this regard and it is strongly advised that you acquaint yourself with all the OSHA requirements hereto. Establishments with 250 or more employees in industries covered by the record keeping regulation must submit information from their 2016 Form 300A by July 1, 2017. These same employers will be required to submit information from all 2017 forms (300A, 300, and 301) by July 1st, 2018. From 2019 onward the final submission date will be March 2nd.
It is important to note that for establishments with 20-249 employees there are certain high-risk industries that are affected and must also comply with the rule, i.e. submission of injury and illness forms (Form 300A). The list of these high-risk industries is a very long one, and includes construction, utilities, manufacturing, agriculture, forestry and fishing, not to mention grocery stores, department stores, taxi and limousine services, general freight trucking, couriers and express delivery services, lessors of real estate, services to buildings and dwellings – the list goes on and on. That is why any small business with 20 or more employees must visit the OSHA website and confirm is theirs is one of those deemed high-risk by OSHA. These organisations too must submit information from their Form 300A documentation to OSHA by the same deadlines for 2017, 2018 and beyond as those employers with more than 250 employees.
How can said data be submitted? OSHA provides three options: 1. Users can manually enter data into a webform; or 2. Users can upload a CSV file to process single or multiple establishments simultaneously (for the uninitiated, CSV is a simple file format for tabulated data, such as a spreadsheet or database, and stands for “comma-separated values”); or 3. Users of automated recordkeeping systems can transmit data electronically (i.e. ‘live’) via an API (or “application programming interface,” which allows your computer boffins to build on existing software). The OSHA site is scheduled to go live in February 2017.
The rule makes further stipulations. These include that employers must inform employees of their right to report work-related injuries and illnesses free from retaliation of any kind. Any such retaliation is statutorily prohibited and is a federal offence. This communication of worker rights with regard to incident reporting can be satisfied by posting the appropriate OSHA poster in the workplace. As with all things OSHA, this is one more rule that all relevant employers would do well to comply with. Chris Lu, the Deputy Secretary of Labor, makes it clear: “By increasing data transparency, it will help build stronger and safer workplaces for generations of Americans.”