The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that more than 3 million people suffer a workplace injury or illness each year. Unfortunately, further details related to those instances remain largely unknown to both the public and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). OSHA is the federal agency charged with overseeing worker safety.
OSHA is implementing a new rule the agency says will help both improve safety and prevent future workplace injuries and illnesses. OSHA plans to modernize the process by which data is collected.
Currently, OSHA requires employers to keep a record of their company's workplace injuries and illnesses so they can, in theory, not only identify workplace hazards, but also put plans in place to eliminate them.
Beginning Aug. 10, 2016, the new reporting requirement will take effect.
Under the new OSHA workplace injury reporting rule, employers in high-hazard industries must send to the agency injury information and data they are already required to collect so that it can be publicly posted online.
OSHA's goal is to create the largest publicly available database detailing workplace injuries and illnesses—information that the agency said will reap many benefits:
A searchable online database of information will allow prospective workers to identify employers in their field that have the lowest instances of workplace injuries and illnesses—allowing them to make more informed decisions about where they will seek employment.
OSHA expects public workplace injury and illness data will entice employers to make improvements in safety protocols or injury-prevention programs. It will also allow employers to compare their safety performance to competitors and industry leaders, which could make injury prevention a higher priority.
Having access to the details related to companies' workplace injuries and illnesses will allow OSHA to better target compliance efforts, as well as more effectively allocate its enforcement resources.
OSHA hopes the availability of specific information related to workplace injuries and illnesses will allow researchers to study the data in an effort to identity how to make workplaces safer for workers.
It should be noted that not all employers are required to report their injuries to OSHA for inclusion in the database. Employers in low-hazard industries such as retail, finance and real estate are exempt.
Additionally, in an effort to ensure that workplace injury and illness information collected and posted is accurate and complete, OSHA is reminding employees that it is their right to report injuries and illnesses without fear of retaliation.
As part of this effort, the agency requires that employers have a reasonable procedure for employees to report workplace injuries and illnesses.
While the data on the OSHA website will include details related to the injury and illness, OSHA will omit all identifying personal information on injured workers.
Edgar Snyder & Associates has represented injured workers for more than 30 years—and we look forward to seeing if the new reporting rules will lead to lower instances of injured or sickened workers.