Proposed Rule Would Make Public Employers' Injury/Illness Information, Michaels Says

The Occupational Safety & Health Reporter™ provides complete news coverage and documentation of federal and state occupational safety and health programs, standards, legislation, regulations, enforcement, and Review Commission decisions.

By Bruce Rolfsen  

Nov. 7 --Wide-ranging changes to how the Occupational Safety and Health Administration collects and makes available to the public employers' injury and illness information were proposed by the agency Nov. 7.

The recommended changes include requiring employers with 250 or more workers, about 38,000 workplaces, to file their OSHA 300 logs electronically every three months and for OSHA to post the data on the agency's public website, minus any information that could identify individuals. The proposal was published Nov. 8 (78 Fed. Reg. 67,254).

Companies with 20 or more workers in high-hazard industries, about 440,000 workplaces, would have to submit electronically their OSHA 300 log data annually. That information, too, would be posted on OSHA's website.

The mandated electronic submissions would replace the annual OSHA Data Initiative, which requires about 100,000 non-construction employers to submit by paper or online summaries of their 300 logs. Of those companies, about 10,000 with above-average rates compared to their peers are placed in the Site-Specific Targeting Program for inspections of high-hazard employers.

The proposal doesn't change the criteria or definitions for recording injuries and illnesses.

'A First Step.'

“This is not an enforcement initiative,” OSHA chief David Michaels said during a Nov. 7 news briefing.

While the information can be used to help steer inspection priorities, Michaels said, the data will also be used to:

• suggest employers that need consultation visits,

• allow companies to compare their injury and illness rates with each other,

• help people decide where they want to work and

• let employees judge whether their workplaces' accidents were reported to OSHA.

 

Michaels said the proposal doesn't require companies to collect any information they aren't already required to record.

The proposal's online disclosure provisions could raise the most objections.

“We think this is troubling if OSHA is going to make the reports available to the public,” Marc Freedman, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's executive director of labor law policy, told Bloomberg BNA Nov. 7.

Freedman said injury and illness numbers could be taken out of context and don't explain employers' safety measures.

Posting the data online has the support of Paul O'Neill, former chief executive of Alcoa Inc. and a secretary of the treasury under President George W. Bush, who spoke during Michaels's news conference.

“I hope this is the first step, not the final step,” O'Neill said.

O'Neill recalled that among his first actions at Alcoa was requiring the company's 340-plus sites to submit daily their injury and illness data. In turn, Alcoa posted on its public website the corporate-wide injury and illness rate.

OSHA already releases annual injury and illness rates for about 10,000 employers in the Site-Specific Targeting Program. The agency also has posted data for all companies that participated in the OSHA Data Initiative from 1992 through 2011.

As part of the proposal, Michaels said, OSHA is withdrawing a separate initiative seeking permission to include businesses with 11 to 19 workers in its data collection efforts .

$10.7 Million Cost

OSHA estimated the new measures would cost employers an additional total cost of $10.7 million annually. Companies with 250-plus workers would spend $26.69 per company to meet the new requirements, while each employer with 20-plus workers would spend annually $9.40.

About 70 percent of employers that are required to submit 300 log information to OSHA as part of the OSHA Data Initiative do so electronically, according to the agency.

OSHA first advocated the record-keeping changes in 2010, and on Nov. 22, 2011, submitted a proposed rule to the White House's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs

Nearly two years later, on Nov. 4, OIRA completed its review, clearing the way for OSHA to issue the notice of proposed rule-making .

A public meeting is set for Jan. 9 in Washington. OSHA will accept public comments on the proposal through Feb. 6, 2014, at http://www.regulations.gov. The docket number for the notice of proposed rule-making titled Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses is OSHA-2013-0023, and the regulatory information number (RIN) is 1218-AC49.

 

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://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2013-11-08/pdf/2013-26711.pdf.