OSHA has delayed the actual electronic reporting requirements of its injury and illness reporting rule change, but that doesn’t mean companies can just forget about complying with the rule. That’s because, while the electronic portion was to go into effect in July, the parts of the rule that prohibit discouraging or punishing workers who try to report injuries are already in effect. A new court ruling shows whistle-blower provisions like the ones in the rule have real teeth in them.
in April, a Federal appeals court found that a rail line must pay a worker $260,000 in punitive and compensatory damages and take corrective action because it retaliated against the employee for reporting an injury. in this case, when the worker reported the injury, the railroad accused him of dishonesty and wrote him a letter of reprimand. The event took place in 2011 and OSHA cited the company under the Federal Railroad Safety Act whistleblower rules. It is worth noting that, when OSHA first cited the company, the proposed penalty was about $50,000. Presumably because of the wages owed because of the delay, the price tag is now $260,000, plus whatever the attorney’s fees added to that.
While that case preceded the current rulemaking, the new reporting regulations also contain strong prohibitions against employers who either try to keep workers from reporting or punish them after a report is made. Those provisions went into effect at the beginning of 2017.
Here are five tips:
- Don’t discourage workers through policies, comments by supervisors and managers or safety programs that pressure employees to not report injuries.
- Don’t do anything that OSHA might consider punishment for a worker who does report an injury.
- Examine your substance testing to make sure you only use it post injury when there is the potential that drugs or alcohol could have contributed. (Note: that doesn’t mean you can’t test; you just need to consider whether impairment might have been a factor).
- Have an organized system that allows workers to report injuries and then triggers steps to make sure they receive the right level of treatment, you have documented the report and treatment and workers understand the process of reporting.
- Understand the rules on OSHA recordables. Tracking injuries accurately is one of the most effective ways to manage them and make sure you are not reporting that is not required.