OSHA Reporting Rule Changes

LARGE EMPLOYERS NO LONGER REQUIRED TO SUBMIT ELECTRONIC REPORTS TO OSHA

On January 24, 2019, the U.S. Department of Labor's (DOL) workplace safety office eliminated part of a 2016 Obama administration rule requiring employees with 250 or more workers to electronically file detailed injury reports online.  The previous rule was implemented by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and required, among other things, large employers to electronically submit logs to OSHA of on-the-job injury or illness. While these reports were never supposed to include the name of the injured worker, OSHA claimed employers were providing names by mistake or providing circumstantial information that could be used to reveal a worker's identity.  OSHA's concerns about worker privacy, namely the risk that workers' information might be publicly disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act, seemingly lead to it taking steps to eliminate this reporting requirement for large employers. 

Opponents of this rule rescission claim the change will keep OSHA, workers and the public in general in the dark about dangerous conditions that may exist in American workplaces.  It has also been argued it stunts the ability of the public or congress from identifying and addressing issues that threaten the lives and livelihood of workers and their families.  To this end, a coalition of groups filed a lawsuit in D.C. federal court on January 25, 2019, challenging OSHA's decision to amend the 2016 rule and remove the requirement that large businesses no longer have to electronically file reports of on-the-job injuries.  The groups bringing the lawsuit claim OSHA did not have a reasonable explanation as to why it was changing its opinion regarding the reporting and it did not properly respond to comments opposing the rollback.

TIPS ALL EMPLOYERS CAN TAKE FROM THIS RULE CHANGE

While this rollback of the DOL's rule eliminates a large employer's obligation to submit the reports electronically to OSHA, it does not eliminate an employer's obligation to keep internal records of any worker's on-the-job injury or illness. Employers are also expected to be able to provide this information to employees or OSHA inspectors upon request.  Therefore, despite this rule rollback and the pending litigation that could affect the change, employers should not change their documenting process when it comes to workers who are injured while on-the-job.  Employers should be meticulous in their documentation and continue to compile and organize such information so it can be readily available if requested.  Continuing to follow workplace safety requirements and protocols is also important, as OSHA has given no indication that just because large employers are no longer required to report incidents that OSHA will become more lax in its regulation enforcement or fines for workplace violations. 

If you have any questions regarding this new rule change, OSHA regulations or documenting workplace injuries and illnesses, please contact your Thompson Coe attorney at (651) 389-5000 or at myHRgenius@thompsoncoe.com.  You can also find additional information and tips for your company and HR professionals at https://myhrgenius.co.

 
 

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