Federal safety regulators recently proposed major changes in workplace reporting rules requiring large companies (more than 250 employees) to file injury and illness reports electronically online, making them available to the public.
All interested parties (mostly large companies) will have 90 days to send comments on the proposal by OSHA, who will then consider all suggestions. A public hearing will be held on January 9th. Later, the decision to approve or deny the changes will be made. Large companies will be required to transmit the data on a quarterly basis. (This would affect approximately 38,000 companies). Those with 20 or more in certain industries with high injury and illness rates would be asked to submit electronically a summary of work-related injuries and illnesses once a year. There are about 440,000 companies that would be in this category.
Here are some pros and cons to consider:
- This change would put added pressure on businesses to comply by submitting reports in a more timely fashion.
- It would enable the public to identify those companies with poor safety records.
- It would aid OSHA by not requiring them to inspect those companies with good health and safety records, and focus more on the ones that are reported.
- OSHA has 2400 inspectors that must cover 8 million workplaces.
- It would help employers identify and eliminate workplace risks.
- Business groups will probably oppose the change for fear that misleading and sensitive information presented to the public could hurt a company’s safety reputation.
- They may worry that this type of reporting doesn’t tell the full story of the cause of the injury and/or work-related health problems.
- Businesses are already required to submit annual reports; this would add to their burden of sending in extra accident reports that the company is already aware of and making efforts to correct.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were almost three million workplace injuries and illness last year. Over 4,300 workers died after being injured on the job in the past year. Many safety advocates have criticized OSHA for not issuing higher fines for to help discourage unsafe workplaces. An average penalty from OSHA is around $1,000; the median initial penalty proposed for cases where a worker dies is $5,900. However, if you notice, these fines and penalties may add up to much heftier amounts. OSHA feels that public disclosure of accident reports could be another way for them to increase pressure on companies to comply with safety rules. OSHA feels that responsible employers will be pleased to be recognized as leaders in safety, according to OSHA head, David Michaels.