The Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently issued a proposed rule to improve workplace safety and health through improved tracking of workplace injuries and illnesses. The announcement, which was introduced a few months ago, follows the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ release of its annual Occupational Injuries and Illnesses report, which estimates that three million workers were injured on the job in 2012.
“Three million injuries are three million too many,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. “With the changes being proposed in this rule, employers, employees, the government and researchers will have better access to data that will encourage earlier abatement of hazards and result in improved programs to reduce workplace hazards and prevent injuries, illnesses and fatalities. The proposal does not add any new requirement to keep records; it only modifies an employer’s obligation to transmit these records to OSHA.” These are strong goals for the new system of protections.
Public comment for the proposed rule making ended in February of 2014, however the results are not yet released. On Jan. 9, 2014, OSHA will held a public meeting on the proposed rule in Washington, D.C. A Federal Register entry followed.
The proposed rule was developed following a series of meetings in 2010 to help OSHA gather information about electronic submission of establishment-specific injury and illness data. OSHA is proposing to amend its current record keeping regulations to add requirements for the electronic submission of injury and illness information employers are already required to keep under existing standards, Part 1904. It is vital for employers to faithfully account for and report injuries in the workplace so that future injuries can be avoided. However, in an environment where profits come before people, companies are pressured to internalize many results.
OSHA is also proposing that establishments with 20 or more employees, in certain industries with high injury and illness rates, be required to submit electronically only their summary of work-related injuries and illnesses to OSHA once a year. Currently, many such firms report this information to OSHA under OSHA’s Data Initiative. While these regulations could put more of a stress on smaller business that currently exist, the overall good of increased reporting and data is tremendous.
OSHA plans to eventually post the data online. Timely, establishment-specific injury and illness data will help OSHA target its compliance assistance and enforcement resources more effectively by identifying workplaces where workers are at greater risk, and enable employers to compare their injury rates with others in the same industry. Furthermore those employees that are victims of workplace injury can research to see if their employer has had similar issues to see is risks still exist.
Additional information on the proposed rule can be found at http://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=FEDERAL_REGISTER&p_id=24002 and http://www.osha.gov/recordkeeping/proposed_data_form.html. All workers should speak up and be heard to protect their rights and safety.
If you are injured in the workplace or exposed to toxic substances in Illinois or beyond please contact an experienced attorney.