New OSHA Final Rule Mandates Electronic Submission of Data

In an OSHA final rule issued today, it was announced that many employers will be required to electronically submit to OSHA the injury and illness data they’re already required to keep internally. The frequency of this submission will depend on the size of the business, but will be required at least annually. OSHA will begin making this injury and illness data publicly available on its website, but says it will remove any details “that could be used to identify individual employees.”

Under the new rule, all covered establishments with 250 or more employees must electronically submit to OSHA injury and illness information from OSHA Forms 300, 300A, and 301 on an annual basis. (Temp workers, and workers who were only hired for part of the year count toward that 250.) Establishments with 20-249 employees in certain industries must also electronically submit information. (OSHA provides a list of the covered industries here.) The proposed rule had originally included quarterly submission information. However, after considerable pushback from industry on this point, OSHA said in the final rule that “OSHA agrees with commenters who stated that annual reporting would lessen the burden on employers.”

OSHA says it also reserves the right to specially request that employers submit this information whenever they wish.

The information will be submitted to OSHA over a secure website.

In addition to these submission requirements, today’s final rule also contains sections intended to protect employees from retaliation when they report an injury or illness. Specifically, the rule:

  • “requires employers to inform employees of their right to report work-related injuries and illnesses free from retaliation”
  • “clarifies the existing implicit requirement that an employer’s procedure for reporting work-related injuries and illnesses must be reasonable and not deter or discourage employees from reporting”
  • “incorporates the existing statutory prohibition on retaliating against employees for reporting work-related injuries or illnesses”

The rule technically goes into effect on August 10, 2016, with the new data submissions beginning in 2017. For states with state plans, OSHA says: “within 6 months after publication of the final OSHA rule [officially, tomorrow], state-plan states must promulgate occupational injury and illness recording and reporting requirements that are substantially identical to those in [the new final rule].”

Why do all this? OSHA says it is issuing this new final rule because: “Currently, little or no information about worker injuries and illnesses at individual employers is made public or available to OSHA.”

“Since high injury rates are a sign of poor management, no employer wants to be seen publicly as operating a dangerous workplace,” OSHA head Dr. David Michaels further explained in a press release. “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.”

OSHA says the rule will “create the largest publicly available data set on work injuries and illnesses” ever to exist.

OSHA had originally floated these changes back in 2013, and had been talking about this since 2010. At the time, OSHA said it was shooting for an August 2015 date for a final rule. Today’s announcement evinces there was a delay in that timeline.

If you’re beginning to think about how you’ll comply with this new rule, keep in mind that an electronic solution can be a powerful tool for helping to meet the requirements of this and other OSHA regulations. VelocityEHS cloud-based EHS management software can provide a central hub for all of the data that employers are required to maintain. Our comprehensive, yet easy-to-use software gives you the ability to easily record, track, and report on all types of incidents. In addition to meeting OSHA requirements, these tools help you create an awareness of exposure risks that keeps your employees safe from accidents.

Even OSHA seems to grasp the benefits of an electronic solution in this connection. In the text of the new rule, OSHA says: “The final rule does not require employers to adopt an electronic system to record occupational injuries and illnesses [. . .] [but] if the employer has software with the ability to export or transmit data in a standard format that meets OSHA’s specifications, they may use that method to meet their reporting obligations and minimize their burden to do so.” [Our italics.]

OSHA is expected to release more information on the ability of software solutions to directly submit the information required by this new rule in the months ahead.

At VelocityEHS, we have known for years that electronic recordkeeping solutions can help businesses of all sizes (and in all industries) to cut costs, save time, control risk, and deliver results effectively. For more information on how an electronic system can help reduce your burden, visit the VelocityEHS website.