Written by: Joe Mangiardi, NES, Inc.
Injury and illness reporting is important to ensure proper attention is paid to safety in the workplace.
OSHA Updates Regulations on Electronic Injury and Illness Reporting
OSHA has promulgated a final rule that revises 29 CFR 1904, the regulation governing occupational injury and illness reporting. Certain employers have long been required to record data on workplace illnesses and injuries. Effective as of January 1st, 2017, the final rule requires these employers to electronically submit this data via a secure website provided by OSHA. The data obtained through this new requirement will better allow OSHA and employers to identify and remedy hazards in the workplace, leading to a decrease in employee injuries, illnesses, and deaths. Behavioral science strongly suggests that the new requirement will boost employers’ efforts to improve workplace safety in order to project a safe image and sustain a positive reputation. Current and prospective employees will benefit not only from such projected enhancements to workplace safety but also from the opportunity to access vocational statistics in a more open and transparent manner.
Reporting Schedules and Relevant Changes
No change is being made with regard to which employers must maintain illness and injury records; the change is that some information from these records must be made publicly accessible through OSHA. The following schedules apply:
- If an establishment (defined as a single physical location, as opposed to a firm, which may comprise multiple establishments) has 250 or more employees and is in an industry covered by the recordkeeping regulation, then it must submit information from its 2016 Form 300A by July 1st, 2017 and from all 2017 forms (300, 300A, and 301) by July 1st, 2018. Starting in 2019 the prior year’s information must be submitted by March 2nd.
- Establishments with 20-249 employees in particular high-risk industries will be required to submit information from their 2016 Form 300A by July 1st, 2017, and their 2017 Form 300A by July 1st, 2018. Starting in 2019 the prior year’s information must be submitted by March 2nd.
Further, the rule stipulates three main provisions: (1) employers may not maintain any policy or procedure that deters or discourages employees from reporting work-related injuries, illnesses, or deaths; (2) an employer may not retaliate against or in any way punish an employee for such reporting; and (3) this protection from retaliation must be communicated by the employer to all employees in a method the employees can clearly understand—this can be accomplished by way of displaying the OSHA Job Safety and Health poster from April 2015 or later. While it has already been illegal for an employer to retaliate against an employee for reporting such incidents, it has been required that the employee file a complaint with OSHA within 30 days of the alleged offense. As of January 1st, 2017, OSHA has the authority to cite an employer regardless of a complaint having been filed.
Here is a picture of a construction worker stepping on an exposed nail, a common workplace hazard.
Disciplinary Action and Incentive Programs
As stated above, OSHA protects employees from retaliation as the result of injury and illness reporting. If disciplinary action does accompany report of an incident, this action cannot be a direct result of the employee’s report; i.e., it may not be administered only in such cases as when a report is made while non-incident causing violations regularly occur with impunity. OSHA understands that such disproportionate implementation of disciplinary action can be difficult to recognize at times, but the main consideration concerns uniformity and fairness in health and safety program enforcement.
This picture shows a construction worker displaying unsafe work practices, which should be immediately and consistently corrected if observed.
This ordinance does not prohibit employers from maintaining incentive programs to promote worker safety or productivity; however, rights to the participation in or awards/rewards gained from an incentive program may not be revoked due to an employee reporting an injury or illness, as mandated by 29 CFR 1904.35(b)(1)(iv). Incentive programs—whereby awards/rewards are given for employees’ adherence to safety protocols, completion of health and safety training, injury and illness reporting, etc.—are greatly encouraged as an effective means to lower incidents, increase employee awareness, raise morale, and protect an employer’s bottom line.
It is important for an employer offering an incentive program to ensure that the program operates in compliance with 29 CFR 1904.35(b)(1)(iv). A key question to ask, both in the development of an incentive program and in the enforcement of its rules, is ‘Does this program discourage employees from reporting injuries or illnesses?’ No program of any kind may ever discourage employees from reporting any workplace incident (the same applies to any drug testing program).
Consistent reinforcement of safe work habits paired with appropriately designed incentive programs can help to keep the workplace accident free.
Conclusion: Injury and Illness Reporting
The OSHA 29 CFR 1904 final rule is another measure in the effort to ensure a safe and healthy work environment. When OSHA, employers, and employees all work together toward achieving this, everybody wins.
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OSHA Fact Sheet: Final Rule to Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses