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Industry Groups Divided Over OSHA’s Electronic Recordkeeping Rule

By Kay Bechtold

The week before OSHA published its new electronic recordkeeping rule, AIHA Director of Government Affairs Aaron Trippler predicted (PDF) that lawsuits would “show up immediately.” While we’re not aware of any quite yet, it seems that lawsuits are inevitable given the wide-ranging opinions about the new requirements that quickly bubbled up following the rule’s publication on May 11.

Set to take effect on Jan. 1, 2017, the rule will require employers in high-hazard industries to transmit to OSHA information about workplace injuries and illnesses, which employers already record on OSHA Forms 300, 300A, and 301. OSHA will remove all personally identifiable information from the data and post it to the agency’s website.

As expected, the rule has proven to be a controversial topic among industry groups. While some organizations feel that the rule is a positive step toward improving worker protection in the U.S., others have expressed strong opposition. 

Here’s an overview of what industry groups are saying about the agency’s new requirements.

FOR

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka:

“This new transparency will assist OSHA and workers in identifying hazardous workplaces. In addition, employers will be able to compare their records with other employers in their industry and public health officials and researchers will be able to identify emerging trends. Most importantly, this data will help prevent future injuries, illnesses and deaths.”

National COSH Acting Executive Director Jessica Martinez:

“By requiring electronic submissions every quarter and making the data public, this common-sense regulation will help us learn more about how workers are hurt and become sick on the job. The more we know, the more we can do to prevent injuries and illnesses from happening in the first place with effective safety programs centered on worker participation.”

AGAINST

National Association of Manufacturers Vice President of Labor, Legal and Regulatory Policy Rosario Palmieri:

“Today, this administration put a target on nearly every company and manufacturer in the United States. Manufacturers are supportive of regulations aimed at increasing transparency, and we pride ourselves on creating safe workplaces for the men and women who make things in America. However, this regulation will lead to the unfair and unnecessary public shaming of these businesses.”

U.S. Chamber of Commerce Senior Vice President of Labor, Immigration, and Employee Benefits Randy Johnson:

“The Chamber is deeply disappointed that OSHA has finalized this misguided regulation. Instead of improving workplace safety, this will only create a new filing requirement that will lead to sensitive employer data being published without context or explanation. The agency’s excessive reporting requirements will lead to employers being falsely branded as unsafe and will not reflect a company’s commitment to maintaining a safe workplace.”

OSHA’S VIEW

OSHA maintains that the new rule is intended to better inform workers, employers, the public, and the agency about workplace hazards. During a call with reporters to introduce the rule, Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA David Michaels, PhD, MPH, stated that access to these data will allow the agency to use its resources more efficiently. 

“Using data collected under the new rule, OSHA will create the largest publicly available dataset on work injuries and illnesses,” Michaels said. “This will enable researchers to better study injury causation to identify new workplace safety hazards before they become widespread and to evaluate the effectiveness of injury and illness prevention activities.”

The full text of the final rule was published in the Federal Register on May 12. OSHA’s Web page about the new rule features additional information such as a fact sheet and frequently asked questions.

Where do you land on OSHA’s electronic recordkeeping rule? Let us know in the comments.​


Kay Bechtold is assistant editor of The Synergist. 

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