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New OSHA Recordkeeping Proposal Includes Corporate-Wide Injury Reporting

Thursday, December 19, 2013

By Bruce Rolfsen

Dec. 16 --Employers with as few as 50 workers at multiple worksites could be required to submit company-wide injury and illness information to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration as part of the agency's proposal to rewrite its recordkeeping regulations.

The possible mandate is among the ideas up for discussion Jan. 9 when OSHA holds a public meeting on the agency's proposed revisions to how and when employers must submit their injury and illness reports. The agency is accepting written comments through Feb. 6.

The company-wide idea would require enterprises to collect OSHA Form 300A data from each of their establishments that are required to keep injury and illness records and then submit to OSHA the data for each establishment.

Not Required Now

Currently, OSHA doesn't require employers to collect or submit what the agency calls “enterprise-wide” information. Instead, OSHA requires individual “establishments” to keep injury and illness logs and submit the information when requested by OSHA.

For example, a large retail store chain isn't required now to collect or submit data for the entire chain to OSHA. However, the company's individual stores, warehouses and distribution centers are mandated to keep records and provide them to OSHA upon request.

When OSHA announced its potential recordkeeping changes on Nov. 8, the agency didn't emphasize the enterprise-wide alternative.

The enterprise-wide proposal, which covers three-plus pages in the 30-page Federal Register notice (78 Fed. Reg. 67,271), wasn't mentioned in OSHA's press releases or the statement by OSHA administrator David Michaels.

Instead, OSHA emphasized parts of the proposed changes in which establishments with 250 or more workers would be required to submit quarterly, through a website, the data from their OSHA logs. Employers in high-hazard industries with 20 more workers would have to submit information from Form 300A annually.

OSHA would then post the numbers on its public website, minus information that could identify individual workers.

Although OSHA listed enterprise-wide reporting an “alternative,” interested parties should treat the idea the same as the changes in the proposal highlighted by OSHA, industry attorney Nickole Winnett, an associate with Jackson Lewis PC, told Bloomberg BNA Dec. 16.

“I definitely could see OSHA including this in the final rule,” Winnett said.

The proposal fits in with OSHA's emphasis on corporate-wide settlements, often involving establishments where no violations have been cited, Winnett said. OSHA could use the enterprise-wide data to target inspections of companies with high rates, an approach that could send inspectors to establishments with low rates because other establishments have high rates.

'Improve Employer Awareness.'

OSHA sees several advantages to gathering corporate-wide data.

“First, the provision would improve employer awareness and oversight of workplace safety and health at the enterprise level,” OSHA said in its Federal Register notice announcing the rule. “Many multi-establishment enterprises already collect and analyze establishment-level injury and illness data, but many do not.”

Second, the enterprise-wide data would make it possible for OSHA to calculate corporate-wide injury and illness rates, the notice said. By using enterprise-wide data, OSHA could identify employers with high rates and large numbers of injuries and illnesses and work with them to lower the rates.

What's an Enterprise?

There are numerous issues OSHA would have to resolve before it releases a rule that includes enterprise-wide reporting, the notice said.

Among them is defining “enterprise.” OSHA's recordkeeping rule, 29 C.F.R. 1904, doesn't define enterprise, the OSHA notice said.

The Census Bureau and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission have definitions for enterprise, the notice said. While both agencies agree an enterprise is a business with multiple establishments, they have different methods for defining whether the establishments are under common ownership of the enterprise.

How Many Employees?

OSHA also needs to decide how large an employer would have to be to trigger the enterprise-wide reporting requirement. OSHA's notice suggested the mandate would apply only to enterprises with ownership or control of five or more establishments in the prior year.

In addition, the agency would have to decide the number of employees at an enterprise or establishment that would trigger the reporting requirement, the notice said. As examples, the notice said OSHA could exempt enterprises with fewer than 50 workers and establishments with 10 or fewer workers.

According to the notice, the business information service Dun & Bradstreet told OSHA in 2012 there were 28,127 enterprises with at least five establishments subject to OSHA recordkeeping requirements. Altogether, the enterprises control 291,425 establishments with 11 or more workers.

As for the cost to employees, OSHA estimated that if establishments with 11 or more workers were included, the annual expense for employers will be $2.6 million.

To contact the reporter on this story: Bruce Rolfsen in Washington at brolfsen@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jim Stimson at jstimson@bna.com


The Federal Register notice is available at http://op.bna.com/env.nsf/r?Open=rdae-9egm3k.

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