OSHA Rule Intended to Modernize Injury Data Collection

Words: Dan Kamys

New federal requirements take effect August 10, 2016

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued a final rule to modernize injury data collection to better inform workers, employers, the public and OSHA about workplace hazards. With this new rule, the insights of behavioral economics are being applied to improve workplace safety and prevent injuries and illnesses. OSHA requires many employers to keep a record of injuries and illnesses to help identify hazards, fix problems and prevent additional injuries and illnesses. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports more than three million workers suffer a workplace injury or illness every year. Currently, little or no information about these injuries and illnesses is made public or available to OSHA. Under the new rule, employers in high-hazard industries will send OSHA injury and illness data that they are already required to collect, and the data will be posted on the agency's website. OSHA expects that public disclosure of work injury data will encourage employers to increase their efforts to prevent work-related injuries and illnesses. Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, Dr. David Michaels, said, "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. Access to injury data will also help OSHA better target our compliance assistance and enforcement resources at establishments where workers are at greatest risk, and enable 'big data' researchers to apply their skills to making workplaces safer." Prospective employees will be able to use the data to identify workplaces where their risk of injury is lowest. Access to these data will also enable employers to benchmark their safety and health performance against industry leaders, to improve their own safety programs. The final rule also promotes an employee's right to report injuries and illnesses without fear of retaliation, and clarifies that an employer must have a reasonable procedure for reporting work-related injuries that does not discourage employees from reporting. 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. All personally identifiable information will be removed before the data is publicly accessible. The new requirements take effect Aug. 10, 2016, with phased-in data submissions beginning in 2017. For more information, visit www.osha.gov.
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