Are You Ready For The Public To See Your OSHA Incident Reports?

On November 8, OSHA published a proposed rule that would require many, if not most, employers to submit their injury and illness reports electronically.  The agency intends to post that information online.

The proposal has three elements:

  1. Companies with 250 or more employees would be required to submit their data for injuries, illnesses and fatalities every quarter.
  2. Companies with 20 or more employees need to submit the information from their OSHA 300A form every year if they are part of an industry that is identified in the rulemaking as having incidents above a certain threshold.
  3. OSHA may also tell individual companies to submit specific information to OSHA.

Talk about a game changer!    Even though employers are already required to post this information where employees can see it, putting incident information online where the whole world can see it is opens up a lot of new issues.   Suddenly a company’s safety record becomes part of the public debate over siting facilities, the relative safety of the industry and the image of the company itself.  Every company must be prepared to publicly defend its record in an environment where any incident is too many incidents.

Of course, whether the government says it or not, that is part of the objective here.  There is a famous quote from Supreme Court Justice Brandeis: “Publicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases. Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.”   OSHA clearly believes that public disclosure will be an incentive to reduce incidents.

For some companies this could be helpful.   If perspective employees start looking at incident rates when deciding where to work or customers gravitate to suppliers and contractors based on their public records, it could be a positive for companies that invest in their safety records and a stigma for those that don’t.

One interesting note – The proposed regulation lists the small employers (by NAICS code) that are required to file their annual OSHA 300A form electronically.  Oil and gas companies and oil and gas service companies are not included on the list.   However, that does not mean small companies in the energy sector are off the hook.    Many are listed under the NAICS code as being part of other industries, such as construction.  Also, OSHA has given itself the ability to target specific companies or sectors to report electronically.

This is still a proposed rule, so the public has a chance to comment. Comments are due by February 6, 2014.   OSHA held public hearings on an earlier version of the proposal and it doesn’t look like it will hold others.

What do you think of this proposal – positive or negative?

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