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New OSHA Rule Improves Tracking of Workplace Injuries

OSHA.jpgA new final rule by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires businesses to electronically submit data on injury and illness that they already record on paper forms. The rule also prohibits employers from telling employees not to report workplace injuries or illnesses. Employees have the right to report these incidents without worrying about their employer retaliating.

What does this new ruling mean for employers? What does it mean for employees? When do the new requirements go into effect? Here's what you need to know about this new rule.

Public Data Makes Employers Focus On Safety

The new rule will require certain employers to submit injury and illness data electronically. While the exact system is still being developed, electronic submission should lead to more accurate collection of data over the current system of paper forms.

In addition, OSHA intends to make at least some of this information publically available for purposes of transparency as well as to open the data up to analysis. If the data is made public, employers will have to work harder to show that they create a safe work environment, because the proof will be in the data.

Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, had the following to say about why the electronic submission rule is being enacted:

"Our new rule will 'nudge' employers to prevent work injuries to show investors, job seekers, customers and the public they operate safe and well-managed facilities. Access to injury data will also help OSHA better target compliance assistance and enforcement resources, and enable 'big data' researchers to apply their skills to making workplaces safer."

Employees Should Not Fear Retaliation

The rule also requires that employers inform employees of the right to report workplace injuries and illnesses. An employer cannot use a procedure that deters or discourages employee reporting. And if an employee does report an injury or illness, the employer cannot retaliate against them for doing so.

If an employer has posted the "OSHA Job Safety and Health: It's the Law" poster from April, 2015, or later, it includes language that complies with the rule's requirement to inform employees of their rights. Otherwise, an employer must include such language in their own materials.

The purpose of this part of the rule is to make sure that employees feel safe to report their own workplace injuries or illnesses, free from the threat of retaliation from their employer. This combines with the employer reporting requirements to increase the rate of incident reporting and improve the accuracy of injury records.

Timeline For Implementation

Employers must begin reporting electronically at different times, depending on their total number of employees and on whether they are in certain industries. Employers with 250 or more employees must begin electronically submitting information from Form 300A by July 1, 2017. They must file information from Forms 300A, 300, and 301 by July 1, 2018. Employers with 20-249 employees in certain industries including agriculture, manufacturing, and waste collection must begin submitting the information from Form 300A by July 1, 2018, as well.

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