OSHA wants to make injury data public, but employers fear a PR nightmare

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has for a second time proposed increased injury and illness reporting for employers — as well as a change that would make that data public — and business advocates are again pushing back.

OSHA said the changes will allow it to better identify workplaces where workers are at high risk and empower workers by increasing transparency. Employer representatives say that could translate to increased union activity and public relations issues for companies with high injury and illness rates.

Injury, Illness forms

Employers are already required to report injury and illness data using the Department of Labor subagency’s Forms 300, 300A and 301.

Nearly all companies with 10 or more employees, with the exception of some industries OSHA has exempted, should understand the OSHA recordkeeping requirements, J. Micah Dickie, an associate at Fisher Phillips, told HR Dive. Failure to do so can result in penalties around $14,000 per violation, he said, and repeated failures can cost employers more than $145,000 per violation.

And OSHA’s March proposal would represent a “drastic” shift for many, Dickie said.

Proposed changes

The proposed regulations are similar to an Obama-era rule that the Trump administration ultimately rescinded. Among other things, OSHA said the regulations would:

  • Require establishments with 100 or more employees in certain high-hazard industries to electronically submit information from those forms once a year.
  • Update the system used to determine industries subject to the submission requirement.
  • Remove the requirement for establishments with 250 or more employees not in a designated industry to electronically submit information from Form 300A annually.

OSHA’s plan to require electronic filing for employers with 100 or more employees at a worksite drops the threshold from its current 250 for certain industries, Dickie said.

In addition, the proposal would require employers to electronically submit OSHA 300 logs and each of their 301 injury and illness Forms — data that is currently represented on the 300A form but only in aggregate numbers, he explained.

If the rule is finalized, the detailed information about recorded injuries and illnesses will be available to OSHA electronically, “and OSHA has stated that it will release this detailed, site-specific data to the public,” Dickie said. “Such a release of data by OSHA raises the risk of union activity at worksites with high injury and illness rates and may lead to public relations issues for employers with high rates.”

The public may comment on the proposal through May 31 at https://www.regulations.gov/document/OSHA-2021-0006-0006.

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