A final rule to update the process of workplace injury data collection that aims to increase public access to injury data was announced by the US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) on Wednesday.
The agency said in a press release that it is working toward building “the largest publicly available data set on work injuries and illnesses,” that will enable researchers to identify new workplace hazards, gauge the effectiveness of present injury and illness prevention measures, and study the causes of injuries.
While OSHA already requires many employers to maintain documentation of workplace injuries and illnesses, the new rule requires that employers in “high-hazard” industries send their data on injuries and illnesses to OSHA. The agency plans on posting that data to its website to make it publically available.
“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,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels in a press release. “Access to injury data will also help OSHA better target our compliance assistance and enforcement resources at establishments are at the greatest risk, and enable ‘big data’ researchers to apply their skills to making workplaces safer.”
Comparing the new rule to public disclosures of sanitation conditions in restaurant kitchens, OSHA said the new effort to make the data publically available will “encourage employers to increase their efforts to prevent work-related injuries and illnesses.”
Set to take effect on August 10, 2016, all businesses with 250 or more employees in industries that are covered by OSHA’s recordkeeping regulation will have to electronically submit injury and illness records from OSHA’s forms 300, 300A, and 301. Some companies with 20 to 249 employees in some industries will have to electronically submit information from OSHA form 300A.
The new final rule also emphasizes employees’ right to report workplace injuries and illnesses without reprisal for the company by including language that said requires employers to provide a “reasonable procedure for reporting work-related injuries that does not discourage employees from reporting,” the OSHA press release said. Because some employers’ injury reporting programs and policies discourage workers from reporting incidents, the agency said, there are cases where companies’ records on injuries and illnesses are incomplete or inaccurate.