May 11, 2016

Public Citizen Commends Rule to Update Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses

Rule Will Modernize OSHA’s Recordkeeping and Data Collection Systems, Ensure More Timely Protections for Workers

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Public Citizen applauds a rule issued today by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to modernize its recordkeeping and data collection on workplace injuries and illnesses, and looks forward to reviewing the final rule.

The purpose of the rule is to ensure that OSHA receives timely and current workplace injury and illness data. Once the new rule is implemented, OSHA intends to make workplace injury and illness data available to the public through a searchable online database.

Currently, when responding to workplace hazards, there are few instances when OSHA has access to the latest workplace injury and illness data. OSHA can obtain this information when it inspects an employer or if that information is included as part of OSHA’s Data Initiative, which requires certain employers to report information. However, the Data Initiative collects only summary data that is typically two to three years old.

“Without access to complete and timely injury and illness data, deadly workplace hazards will go unaddressed,” said Emily Gardner, worker health and safety advocate for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. “The electronic recordkeeping rule will be critical in preventing debilitating injuries and illnesses in workers across the country.”

The new rule will require employers with 250 or more employees to electronically submit their worker injury and illness data to OSHA quarterly. Currently, many employers must compile injury and illness data but are not required to transmit their data to the agency. In addition, employers with 20 to 249 employees in industries with high injury and illness rates will be required to transmit a summary of workplace injury and illness records annually. Many of these employers already report this summary data through OSHA’s Data Initiative.

In 2014, Public Citizen commented on the proposed rule and submitted a public comment with more than 8,400 signatures from Public Citizen members and supporters calling on OSHA to move “full steam ahead” with the rule.

During the rulemaking, Public Citizen and other worker advocacy groups called on OSHA to include a provision in the final rule to stop employers from engaging in practices that could discourage employees from reporting injuries and illness, such as programs that reward worksites for going an entire month with no accidents or penalize workers who report injuries. According to OSHA, the final rule includes anti-retaliation provisions.

“To be effective, OSHA cannot continue to rely on obsolete data when responding to the greatest risks facing workers,” said Lisa Gilbert, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. “Having systematic access to this information will allow OSHA to quickly pinpoint workplace hazards, establish its priorities and target its enforcement efforts.”

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