Public Citizen Applauds OSHA’s Move to Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses

Jan. 9, 2014

Public Citizen Applauds OSHA’s Move to Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses

Statement of Keith Wrightson, Worker Safety and Health Advocate for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch Division

Today and Friday, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is holding a public meeting on improving the tracking of workplace injuries and illnesses. Keith Wrightson, worker safety and health advocate at Public Citizen, will testify in favor of a rule proposed by the agency in November 2013.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is hearing testimony on modernizing and improving the tracking of workplace injuries and illnesses. This meeting is both timely and necessary.

The agency’s proposed rule change will directly benefit workers in the health care industry, who suffer more injuries and illnesses on the job in total than workers in any other industry.

OSHA is proposing to amend its recordkeeping regulations to add requirements for the electronic submission of the injury and illness information that employers are already required to keep under Part 1904 of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970.

The proposed rule amends 29 CFR 1904.41 to require all establishments with 250 or more employees to electronically send all their recordkeeping data to OSHA quarterly. The improved tracking system also would require establishments with 20 or more employees, in certain industries with high injury and illness rates, to electronically send their annual summary data to OSHA once a year. Presently, employers submit such reports on paper, and there is a significant lag in processing the data.

OSHA’s proposal would improve workplace safety and health through the collection of useful, accessible, establishment-specific injury and illness data. At present, OSHA does not electronically receive an establishment’s injury and illness data log. This void forces the agency to rely on data that is more than a year old when attempting to respond to hazardous workplace conditions.

OSHA’s proposed rule changes could also provide wider protections when workers are faced with employer intimidation not to report workplace illnesses and injuries, which is widely prevalent.

We urge OSHA to add a provision to the rule that prohibits employers from having programs, practices and policies that effectively discourage workers from reporting injuries and illnesses, such as programs that reward an entire office for no injuries in a month. This provision must be enforceable through penalties and citations in the same manner as violations of other provisions of the recordkeeping rule itself.

OSHA’s proposed rule change would improve the ability of employers and workers to identify and abate workplace hazards and violations of health and safety standards; it should be strengthened and finalized promptly.

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