OSHA extends comment period on recordkeeping
Will new MSD column become part of log?
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration has extended the deadline for comments until March 8 on proposed recordkeeping changes that would require employers to submit reports electronically.
Meanwhile, a Congressional restriction has quietly been lifted that prevented OSHA from adding a reporting requirement for work-related musculoskeletal disorders.
The recent federal budget agreement did not contain the appropriations "rider" that previously blocked OSHA from implementing a rule that would create an MSD column on the injury and illness log. The change would still need to go through review from the Office of Management and Budget.
OSHA may face some challenges even in changing the method of recordkeeping. Under the proposed rule, large employers (250 or more employees) would be required to send their OSHA forms to the agency electronically every quarter. Smaller employers (20 or more employees) in designated, high-hazard industries would be required to submit information from the summary form (OSHA 300A) annually. Hospitals, nursing homes and home health care are among the designated industries.
"This is a proposal, not a final rule We are eager to hear from the public," OSHA administrator David Michaels, MD, MPH, said in a statement.
OSHA calls the proposal "a limited rulemaking that amends current recordkeeping regulations to add requirements for the electronic submission of injury and illness information employers are already required to keep under existing standards."
Public reporting or 'shaming'?
But OSHA has gotten push-back from business groups and employers who say the electronic reporting will be a burden and that the publicly reported data could be misinterpreted. In a Jan. 9 public meeting, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and others argued that the public reporting could be misleading and damaging — and could even reveal proprietary information.
While employers now may err on the side of reporting incidents that they're not sure are recordable, public reporting may have an unintended consequence of limiting reporting, says Marc Freedman, executive director for labor law policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
"It fundamentally does not support their mission for improving workplace safety," he told HEH. "It's an attempt to 'shame' employers into a different behavior. The shaming part is not going to be an effective strategy."
In its announcement of the proposed rule, the agency said more timely reporting would improve workplace safety. It put a positive spin on public reporting: "Public access to this information will encourage employers to maintain and improve workplace safety/health in order to support their reputations as good places to work and/or do business with."
The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM) supports electronic reporting but has some concerns about confidentiality and the potential effect on underreporting, says Patrick O'Connor, ACOEM director of governmental affairs.
"Generally, we support the transition to an electronic format and we agree with most of the proposed rule," he says. "The issue is trying to strike a careful balance between the needs of employees and employers."
Labor unions and some safety and advocacy organizations expressed support for the greater access to injury and illness data.
With the current recordkeeping system, OSHA must "rely on data that is more than a year old when attempting to respond to hazardous workplace conditions. This is the opposite of a speedy response to hazards," said Keith Wrightson, worker safety and health advocate with Public Citizen in Washington, DC.
Comments can be submitted electronically at www.regulations.gov, docket number OSHA-2013-0023.