The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced in a press release on August 13, 2014, that it would continue to accept comments from the public on a proposed workplace safety rule. The comments period has been extended to October 14, 2014.
The proposed rule would require employers to electronically submit a record of all injuries and illnesses that lead to workers’ compensation claims among their employees. Though employers are already required to keep such data, that data is not currently accessible electronically in a public database.
The proposed OSHA rule would require that certain employers, among many other things, upload records of occupational injuries and illnesses into an OSHA database that is also accessible to the public. The OSHA proposed the rule in order to track workplace safety across industries and to hold employer’s more accountable.
Professional lobbying organizations such as the American Society of Safety Engineers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have challenged the proposed OSHA rule. Several professional organizations have expressed concerns that the electronic reporting rule and its public nature may burden employers and cause them to underreport safety data.
North Carolina workers’ compensation firm, Mike Lewis Attorneys, on the other hand underscores the intent of the original law. Public access of employer reported workplace safety data is essential in providing employers with incentives to make improvements. Merely recording and reporting the incidences to the OSHA is insufficient.
Employers have a substantial business interest in protecting their reputation as desirable workplaces by touting their workplace safety data. The reputation-based pressure to continuously assess and improve employee safety would be lost if employers were allowed to keep statistics about occupational injuries and illnesses private.