OSHA plans to put work­place safety re­ports online

The Washington Times Daily - - Business - BY SAM HANANEL

Fed­eral safety reg­u­la­tors Thurs­day pro­posed ma­jor changes in work­place re­port­ing rules that would re­quire large com­pa­nies to file in­jury and ill­ness re­ports elec­tron­i­cally so they can be posted online and made avail­able to the pub­lic.

Safety ad­vo­cates said the pro­posal by the Oc­cu­pa­tional Safety and Health Ad­min­is­tra­tion would put more pres­sure on com­pa­nies to com­ply with safety rules and make it eas­ier for em­ploy­ees and the pub­lic to iden­tify busi­nesses with poor safety records. But busi­ness groups con­tend mak­ing the in­for­ma­tion pub­lic could be mis­lead­ing and in­tru­sive.

OSHA head David Michaels said the changes would pro­vide bet­ter ac­cess to data for gov­ern­ment safety in­spec­tors as well as work­ers, em­ploy­ers, re­searchers and the pub­lic.

“Pub­lic post­ing of work­place ill­ness and in­jury in­for­ma­tion will nudge em­ploy­ers to bet­ter iden­tify and elim­i­nate hazards,” Mr. Michaels told re­porters in a tele­phone news con­fer­ence. “We be­lieve that re­spon­si­ble em­ploy­ers will want to be rec­og­nized as lead­ers in safety.”

OSHA said the change is in line with Pres­i­dent Obama’s ini­tia­tive to in­crease pub­lic ac­cess to gov­ern­ment data. The plan would re­quire com­pa­nies with more than 250 em­ploy­ees to sub­mit the data elec­tron­i­cally on a quar­terly ba­sis. That would cover about 38,000 Amer­i­can com­pa­nies, Mr. Michaels said.

Com­pa­nies with 20 or more em­ploy­ees in cer­tain in­dus­tries with high in­jury and ill­ness rates would be re­quired to sub­mit elec­tron­i­cally a sum­mary of work-re­lated in­juries and ill­nesses once a year. That would cover another 440,000 com­pa­nies.

Un­der cur­rent rules, em­ploy­ers are re­quired to post an­nual sum­maries of in­jury and ill­ness re­ports in a com­mon area where they can be seen by em­ploy­ees. Some com­pa­nies are also asked to sub­mit their data to the Bureau of La­bor Sta­tis­tics for its an­nual re­port on work­place in­juries. But that data does not re­veal the com­pany where an in­ci­dent oc­curred.

Mr. Michaels said OSHA would even­tu­ally post the data online af­ter re­mov­ing any per­sonal iden­ti­fi­able in­for­ma­tion, though he didn’t say how soon that would hap­pen. But he said the more quickly it’s posted, the more ef­fec­tive it will be in help­ing pre­vent fu­ture in­juries. Given OSHA’s lim­ited re­sources, he said, the new fil­ing pro­ce­dures would help OSHA tar­get its en­force­ment more ef­fec­tively where work­ers are at great­est risk.

Busi­ness groups say they are likely to op­pose the plan, con­tend­ing that raw in­jury data can be mis­lead­ing or con­tain sen­si­tive in­for­ma­tion that can be mis­used.

Marc Freed­man, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor for la­bor pol­icy at the U.S. Cham­ber of Com­merce, said the mere record­ing of an in­jury does not tell the full story about the cir­cum­stances sur­round­ing it or whether the com­pany has a good safety pro­gram.

“Mak­ing com­pany-spe­cific data on in­juries avail­able for all to see would be a ma­jor prob­lem and would likely lead to com­pa­nies be­ing tar­geted by out­side groups who want to char­ac­ter­ize th­ese em­ploy­ers as hav­ing bad safety records,” Mr. Freed­man said.

In­ter­ested par­ties have 90 days to sub­mit com­ments on the pro­posal. OSHA will con­sider the com­ments and hold a pub­lic hear­ing on Jan. 9 be­fore de­cid­ing whether to ap­prove the plan.

Pri­vate em­ploy­ers re­ported nearly 3 mil­lion work­place in­juries and ill­nesses last year, ac­cord­ing to the Bureau of La­bor Sta­tis­tics. More than 4,300 work­ers died last year af­ter be­ing in­jured on the job.

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