By Carmen Rane Hudson
OSHA has extended the comment period on proposed rule changes that would require some employers to submit injury and illness reports online. This window of opportunity now closes on March 8th, 2014. The extension was made in response to a request from the National Association of Home Builders.
OSHA plans to use this data to create a publically-accessible and searchable database in the hopes of creating better health and safety programs. The proposed rule is an amendment to the Recordkeeping Rule, part 1904. The rule would affect any employer with 20 or more employees in “high hazard” industries, such as the construction industry.
It would also effect employers with 250 employees or more who are already required to submit OSHA 300 logs and OSHA 301 incident reports. OSHA may also send notifications to individual businesses asking them to submit the reports. The rule would also change the frequency of these reports. Currently, businesses are required to send annual reports. The proposed rule change would turn report submission into a quarterly task.
In the public meeting held on January 9th, 2014, Dave Schmidt of the OSHA Office of Statistical Analysis explained that OSHA’s current access to this information is limited. The only time OSHA currently sees the data they’ve been collecting is when they enter a business, either to conduct an inspection or to conduct an on-site safety consultation. In response to a question asking if OSHA planned on replacing its current inspection targeting system, or supplement it, as a result of the rule change, Schmidt initially said he couldn’t say how the data would be used for future inspections. When the questioner then asked if the data would be used for targeting, Schmidt responded:
“Well, you know, within the rule, we say that we use the data we have now for inspection targeting and we will use the data we collect under this program for inspection targeting.”
You can read the entire meeting transcript here.
Under the proposed rule, employers who are asked to use the new reporting system would be provided with a secure web portal for data submission. OSHA notes that many of the employers who would be asked to comply already submit some portion of their reports online.
The major changes that this rule would create are not so much in how OSHA receives data from employers but in who would have access to that data. While personally identifiable information of injured or ill employees would be scrubbed from the public record, the names of employers who have logged workplace accidents or injuries would not be. This information would be available online to any public party who wanted to look into it for any reason. The proposed availability of the data is one of the hot buttons for opponents of the proposed rule change.
There is no word on whether or when the rule might take effect, only that any decision would be made after the March 8th deadline. If you’d like to take advantage of the extended comment deadline visit www.regulations.gov. Search “29 CFR 1904.41” and look for the document titled “Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses.” Use the blue “comment now” button to submit your comments electronically.
Carmen Rane Hudson is the content manager for Tuff Supplies, a leading provider of construction safety equipment and safety apparel.