OSHA Proposes New Illness & Injury Reporting Rule
by Trent Cotney, partner, Adams & Reese, LLP
(Editor’s Note: Trent Cotney, partner at Adams & Reese, LLP, is dedicated to representing the roofing and construction industries. Cotney is General Counsel for the Western States Roofing Contractors Association and several other industry associations. For more information, contact the author at (866) 303-5868 or go to www.adamsandreese.com.)
If you are like most employers, you probably find it challenging to keep up with all the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations surrounding injury and illness reporting. This process requires meticulous recordkeeping, and any missteps can result in OSHA citations.
So, it is important to know that in March 2022, OSHA proposed revising its occupational injury and illness recordkeeping requirements. This proposal would require certain employers to electronically submit injury and illness information that they are already obligated to maintain under the recordkeeping standards. Specifically, this regulation requires entities with 100 or more employees in stated industries to annually submit information electronically from their OSHA Forms 300, 301, and 300A. Companies with 20 or more employees in these industries would continue to follow the requirement of yearly electronic submission of their OSHA Form 300A annual summary. In addition, OSHA proposes to revise the classification system used for determining the industries included in the electronic submission requirement.
If the proposal is confirmed, OSHA would post the electronically submitted data on a public website but claims it would remove information identifying the workers involved. When making their submissions to OSHA, entities would be required to include their company names.
What Does This Mean for Your Business?
First and foremost, this proposed rule would require you to submit more information to OSHA than you currently do. OSHA claims that the new standard would reduce the number of injuries and illnesses on the job, but the agency has not provided any evidence to support such an assertion. Beyond that, sensitive information about your company and your employees will be more readily accessible online, which raises privacy issues.
Opposition From the CWS
In reaction to this proposal, the Coalition for Workplace Safety (CWS) sent a letter to OSHA outlining concerns that many employers share. The letter was signed by more than 60 trade associations, including many in the construction industry. The letter laid out four major concerns.
- Duplicate Reporting: Many employers already electronically submit injury and illness information to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses. The CWS contends that employers should not be required to submit this information to two agencies, and it suggests that OSHA and BLS streamline their processes.
- Data Collection and Revision: Although OSHA has set clear reporting deadlines, the agency has not indicated if companies will be given sufficient time to test OSHA submission portals and adjust their reporting processes. OSHA technology may need to be improved to accommodate the additional reporting. Also, OSHA has not committed to any timelines regarding information that must be revised. Often, it takes many months to thoroughly investigate work-related injuries and illnesses, so companies need to modify details when the entire story is known. However, it can be a challenge to have the information corrected on the OSHA site.
- Protection of Information: Much of the information that companies report will be available online and may contain personal and sensitive employee information, including medical records. The proposed requirement is an unfortunate reversal of OSHA’s previous stance that collecting personal and sensitive information from Forms 300 and 301 adds uncertain enforcement benefits, while significantly increasing the risk to worker privacy. Of particular concern, the OSHA 300 Log includes workers’ names and job titles, as well as descriptions of injuries and the body parts impacted. In addition, Form 301 includes workers’ dates of birth, home addresses, and physician information. OSHA claims that submitted data will undergo privacy scrubbing, but there is no evidence such technology will be effective or foolproof.
- Compliance Challenges: When OSHA frequently changes recordkeeping and reporting requirements, companies can struggle to keep up. There is often confusion surrounding what standards they must follow, and it can be difficult to meet the applicable deadlines.
The proposed rule is still under consideration, but the commenting window has expired. If you are concerned about how this proposal may impact your business, do not hesitate to consult legal counsel. An experienced employment attorney can update you on this and other OSHA changes and help you meet compliance obligations.