The Occupational Safety and Health Administration released today its final rule to combat preventable workplace injuries and illnesses by requiring companies to submit all work-related injuries and illnesses to OSHA electronically.

Photo courtesy of OSHA
Photo courtesy of OSHA

A press release from OSHA says the new rule is intended to “modernize injury data collection to better inform workers, employers, the public, and OSHA about workplace hazards.” According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than three million workers suffer from a workplace injury or illness every year. Yet, there is little information on worker injuries and illnesses made public or available to OSHA.

With the new rule, employers will be required to send OSHA injury and illness data, something employers are already required to collect, but data is submitted on a voluntary basis.

This is a continuation of an updated rule from 2013 to improve tracking of workplace injuries and illnesses electronically. OSHA will use this data to gain insight on ways to improve workplace safety and prevent injuries using behavioral economics.

In the press release, OSHA said:

Using data collected under the new rule, OSHA will create the largest publicly available data set on work injuries and illnesses, enabling researchers to better study injury causation, identify new workplace safety hazards before they become widespread and evaluate the effectiveness of injury and illness prevention activities.

By making this information public, OSHA hopes to incentivize employers to maintain a safe work environment, In the press release, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Health and Safety Dr. David Michaels said, "No employer wants to be seen publicly as operating a dangerous workplace. Our new reporting requirements will 'nudge' employers to prevent worker injuries and illnesses to demonstrate to investors, job seekers, customers and the public that they operate safe and well-managed facilities."

As Remodeling has previously reported, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) has expressed concern on this ruling. NAHB says that by OSHA making the filings public, employers will begin to under-report injuries as a way of avoiding bad publicity.

This new OSHA rule ushers in a new era of transparency for worker safety, yet groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce don't see it that way. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce said the rule is “fatally flawed because it is hinged to no statutory authority, is arbitrary, and capricious in light of OSHA’s inconsistent positions on confidential, and violates constitutional mandates of the First and Fourth Amendment."

OSHA counters that the rule gives more license for employees to report injuries and illnesses without fear of retaliation. Plus, employers are now required to have a procedure in place for employees to report workplace illness and injuries that do not intimidate or discourage workers from reporting. In its press release, OSHA says that:

This aspect of the rule targets employer programs and policies that, while nominally promoting safety, have the effect of discouraging workers from reporting injuries and, in turn leading to incomplete or inaccurate records of workplace hazards.

Safety groups like the AFL-CIO are applauding the rule, saying it will bring worker safety concerns into the 21st century. AFL-CIO said in a statement that the new rule, “will help prevent future injuries, illnesses, and deaths… Now these violations will be subject to citations and penalties. With these stronger protections, workers will be more wiling to report injuries, which will help with overall prevention."

The new rule goes into effect on Jan. 1, with new reporting requirements phased in over the course of two years.

The final economic cost of the rule is estimated at $15 million per year, according to OSHA.

To view OSHA's fact sheet about the rule, click here.
How will this new rule impact your business? Let us know in the comments section below.