The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requirement that employers file injury and illness reports regularly was originally intended to provide the agency with useful statistical information to guide its activities. Recently issued rules require those reports be filed electronically and made public on the Internet with the declared purpose of embarrassing employers, while at the same time giving targeting data to unions and tort lawyers.
Starting August 10, companies in industries covered by the recordkeeping regulation employing 250 or more workers must electronically submit OSHA injury and illness Forms 300, 300A and 301.
Firms with 20-249 employees in certain industries need only submit OSHA Form 300A. These include agriculture, construction, utilities and retail, as well as warehousing and storage, couriers and express delivery services, local messengers and local delivery, general freight and specialized freight trucking, and support activities for road, air, rail and water transportation.
The rule also expands the number of companies who have to file these kinds of reports from about 80,000 currently to 478,000 employers.
The agency makes no secret of its intent. “Since high injury rates are a sign of poor management, no employer wants to be seen publicly as operating a dangerous workplace,” declares David Michaels, OSHA’s top official. “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.”
Using the injury data to help OSHA improve setting compliance assistance and enforcement resource priorities was mentioned by Michaels only after he had made the previous statement regarding his agency’s public shaming of employers.
Commenting during the rule proposal period, Michael Belcher, president of the American Society of Safety Engineers, told OSHA that injury and illness rates “were never intended to be used as a performance measurement, but that’s exactly what’s going to happen if they are published. The rule’s emphasis on data collected after injuries and fatalities occur is a step backward for safety professionals who work hard to move organizations toward measuring leading indicators, which better indicate how to avoid injuries and illnesses.”
Attorney Howard Mavity of the law firm of Fisher & Phillips, adds, “This ‘regulation by shame’ strategy will continue to focus employer efforts on the lagging indicators of workplace injuries instead of incentivizing the leading indicator activities that actually prevent injuries.”