OSHA Recordkeeping Requirements: A Synopsis of Current Requirements and Proposed Changes

By Kathleen Pohlid Founder & Managing Member, Pohlid, PLLC | September 28, 2014

Would you be interested in knowing the workplace injuries of your competitors? Are you comfortable with the public having access to your establishment’s workplace injuries and illnesses? Get ready as this will likely happen soon.

Last year, OSHA issued proposed rule changes which will require large employers, with 250 or more employees, to electronically report their workplace injuries and illnesses to OSHA. Whereas, smaller employers, with 20 to 250 employees, will only be required to electronically report their annual summary. OSHA’s deadline for the public to submit comments to its proposed rule has passed and OSHA is currently considering the comments it has received before any final rule is promulgated.

On November 7, 2013, Dr. David Michaels, Under Secretary from OSHA, explained the impetus for the proposed rule: “Today we learned from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that three million American workers in the private sector suffered a serious injury or illness on the job in 2012. In some industries, more than one in twenty workers are injured every year. This should not be acceptable in the United States today.”

Currently, OSHA sees only a small portion of the record-keeping reports for employers. Although many employers are required to maintain OSHA record-keeping reports, only a sample of those employers across the nation are required to submit their reports to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. OSHA typically inspects record-keeping reports during every inspection it conducts. However, there are only about 2,400 OSHA inspectors and almost 8 million workplaces. OSHA estimates that it would take 100 years to inspect to every workplace just once.

The proposed rule is anticipated to facilitate OSHA’s ability to focus on areas where the concerns for workplace injuries and illnesses are the greatest. Some commentators have expressed concern that the proposed rule will create further incentive for employers to under-report injuries and illnesses. Instead, OSHA anticipates that the proposed rule will enhance enforcement capabilities, enabling federal and state enforcement agencies to better target activities, focusing on establishments with higher incidents of workplace accidents, injuries and fatalities.

The proposed rule will not impose any additional requirements on the information which employers are required to maintain or report, but it poses significant implications for establishments beyond OSHA enforcement. Under the proposed rule, employers will be required to timely report the information electronically. Once OSHA obtains the information, it intends to make this data available to theublic via the Internet, after removing employee identifying information. The fact that this information will be available to competitors, insurers, customers, and other entities, provides incentives for employers to give attention to their record-keeping and safety programs. Establishments should be prepared for the data to be used as a comparison for their performance against others in their industry. This can have profound implications for an establishment’s ability to hire the best employees and to attract customers, investors, and business.

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