Back view of businessman sitting in front of laptop screen. Man typing on a modern laptop in an office.
Young student typing on computer sitting at wooden table.
Back view of businessman sitting in front of laptop screen. Man typing on a modern laptop in an office. Young student typing on computer sitting at wooden table.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration released its final rule requiring companies to electronically submit all work-related injuries and illnesses to OSHA. Under the new rule, employers also must establish procedures that allow staffers to report workplace illness and injuries without intimidation or discouragement from reporting.

Before, employers already had to collect injury and illness data, but submittal to OSHA was strictly voluntary.

In addition to combatting preventable injuries and illnesses, OSHA said the rule is intended to “modernize injury data collection to better inform workers, employers, the public and OSHA about workplace hazards.”

This serves as a continuation of an updated rule from 2013 meant to improve electronic tracking of such injuries and illnesses. “Using data collected under the new rule, OSHA will create the largest publicly available data set on work injuries and illnesses, enabling researchers to better study injury causation, identify new workplace safety hazards before they become widespread, and evaluate the effectiveness of injury and illness prevention activities,” the agency stated in a press release.

By making this information public, OSHA hopes to incentivize employers to maintain safe work environments. “Our new reporting requirements will ‘nudge’ employers to prevent worker injuries and illnesses to demonstrate to investors, job seekers, customers and the public that they operate safe and well-managed facilities,” said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational health and safety.

OSHA believes its rule ushers in a new era of transparency for worker safety and gives more license for employees to report injuries and illnesses without fear of retaliation. Safety and labor groups applaud the rule, saying it will bring worker safety concerns into the 21st century. “With these stronger protections, workers will be more wiling to report injuries, which will help with overall prevention,” said the AFL-CIO in a statement.

But that perspective is not shared by business organizations. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce said the rule is “fatally flawed because it is hinged to no statutory authority, is arbitrary and capricious in light of OSHA’s inconsistent positions on confidentiality, and violates constitutional mandates of the First and Fourth Amendments.”

The National Association of Home Builders also expressed concern, saying the requirements might motivate some employers to under-report injuries to avoid bad publicity.

The new rule goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2017, with new reporting requirements phased in over the course of two years. OSHA estimates the final economic cost to be $15 million per year.

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