by Todd Sturgeon, Sturgeon Consulting

Workplace SafetyThe new OSHA regulations covering injury reporting go into effect January 1, 2017. This is a regulation change that appears to be relatively benign on the surface, but will have a much greater impact than most people realize. The updated rules will require manufacturers with 20 or more employees to annually submit recordable injury data.  The data will be available for public viewing and download on the OSHA website.  Employers with 250 or more employees will be required by 2018 to submit the details of each recordable injury.

One of the key purposes of the standard will be targeted business OSHA enforcement. This is evident in the literature provided on the OSHA website.  “Electronic submission of establishment-specific injury and illness data will enable OSHA to use its enforcement and compliance assistance resources more efficiently.  Analysis of the data will improve OSHA’s ability to identify, target, and remove safety and health hazards, thereby preventing workplace injuries, illnesses, and deaths.”

Many employers already complete annual occupational injury and illness surveys, so these new requirements will be similar to what they already experience. Employers who have never participated in these surveys need to make sure they are properly completing their OSHA 300 logs.  We often see over reporting of first aid incidents that should not be on the 300 log.

The over-looked portion of the new regulation concerns the section on employee rights for reporting injuries and illnesses free from retaliation. The standard will allow OSHA to cite employers for retaliation if programs are in place that deter or discourage incident reporting.  If you read the web site Frequently Asked Questions section, you will find some interesting interpretations provided by OSHA.  Pay special attention to the post-accident drug test language.  The rule “prohibits employers from using drug testing, or the threat of drug testing, as a form of retaliation against employees who report injuries or illnesses. If an employer conducts drug testing to comply with the requirements of a state or federal law or regulation, the employer’s motive would not be retaliatory and this rule would not prohibit such testing.

Does this mean that only a DOT mandated post-accident drug test is now legal? This language leaves more unanswered questions than it addresses.  You may also want to review any injury prevention incentive plans you have in place – “employers must not create incentive programs that deter or discourage an employee from reporting an injury or illness. Incentive programs should encourage safe work practices and promote worker participation in safety-related activities.”

Make sure your business is preparing for the new requirements. It is important to review your injury reporting, recording, control, drug testing, and prevention programs.  You want to also make sure that your posted OSHA “It’s the Law” worker rights document is dated April 2015 or later.  An updated version can be downloaded at (www.osha.gov/Publications/poster.html.)

Todd Sturgeon is the founder of Sturgeon Consulting and has experience controlling injuries and expenses for organizations such as Chamberlain Manufacturing and Anchor Hocking Glass, and later transitioned to the insurance industry.

Special Note: NWIRC will offer OSHA Compliance & Injury Prevention training this Fall in DuBois, Erie, and Franklin . More details at the www.nwirc.org/events.