The New Transparency: OSHA Style


The New Transparency: OSHA Style

One of the biggest changes to OSHA regulations in 2017 might be injury and illness reporting.

The final rule to “Improve Tracking of Workplace Illness and Injuries,” which took effect January 1, 2017, requires employers to electronically submit injury and illness data. The new process is a shift from the current requirement to complete hard copy, onsite OSHA Injury and Illness forms. OSHA plans to post the data (free of information that could identify individual employees) on a publically accessible website in an effort to encourage employers to improve workplace safety while informing the general public.

Lynn Miller, divisional health and safety manager for BMC in Austin, Texas, says it’s a ruling that affects the industry in more than one way. “From a record keeping perspective, it doesn’t change what we record and how we report incidents. What changes is: we now have to report those numbers to the government,” Miller said.

It’s not just the fact that those incidents have to be reported to the government; it’s also that the numbers are then posted online for anyone to see. OSHA’s feeling that public awareness will inspire employers to be safer could make business difficult for component manufacturers, general contractors, framers—pretty much everyone in the industry.

“Now it becomes public information,” Miller said. “So if there’s a GC with a higher incident rate, he may not be considered on a particular job because of that.”

The ruling has met some resistance. In a lawsuit filed on January 4 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma, plaintiffs claimed OSHA had no authority to issue the final ruling. In a press release announcing the suit, NAHB called the rule “regulatory overreach” and cited concerns about the public disclosure requirement, due both to the potential harm to a business’ reputation and a lack of evidence that the strategy will reduce injury or illness.

The new reporting requirements are slated to take effect in stages:

  • Employers with 250 or more employees (part-time, seasonal, or temporary workers) in industries covered by the ruling must electronically submit 2016 form 300A by July 1, 2017, and 2017 forms 300A, 300 and 301 by July 1, 2018.
  • Employers with 20-249 employees must submit 2016 form 300A by July 1, 2017, and submit 2017 form 300A by July 1, 2018.
  • Beginning in 2019, information must be submitted each year by March 2 by manually entering data into a webform, uploading a CSV file, or electronically transmitting data via an application programming interface (API).

Despite recent activity, including a Senate vote and presidential resolution nullifying the “Volks Rule” on recordkeeping requirements, Miller emphasized that the general belief is it’s too early to tell how the Trump administration will view the final ruling on electronic recordkeeping. With that in mind, it’s important for employers to do their best to fall in line for the time being.

About the Author: A graduate of UW-Madison with a degree in Journalism, Matt Tanger has five years of experience in residential home construction. As a technical writer and member of the SBC Magazine team since 2014, he works closely with members of NFC and SBCA.