If a worker accident occurred this very minute, OSHA would not have real-time visibility into the incident. In fact, according to the current mandate, the employer would only be required to share that this workplace accident occurred when it came time for annual OSHA reporting.
As of December 1, 2016, however, this process will be turned upside down.
In an effort to improve workplace safety and prevent injuries and illnesses through behavioral based safety, OSHA published the details of a new recordkeeping rule earlier this year that will require establishments with 20 or more employees that already have to fill out OSHA 300 logs to electronically report injury and illness data. Going one step further, OSHA will then post this data online for public viewing on osha.gov.
This means businesses in high hazard industries, such as manufacturing, utilities, construction, transportation, waste treatment and disposal, will not be scrutinized and measured by OSHA inspectors and other businesses against what happened last year or the year before that, but rather what happened in near real-time.
The new initiative has sparked major debate. Some are fearful this will set up companies to be targeted by lawsuits and bad press. On the other hand, we (among others) believe that the increased level of visibility could actually significantly benefit businesses financially, if they’re willing to view OSHA’s decision from an alternative perspective.
Here’s a breakdown of the most common misconceptions surrounding the OSHA recordkeeping rule and how businesses and contractors can use the elevated transparency to their advantage:
Visibility to the Public
OSHA’s 2,000 inspectors currently are only capable of visiting approximately 90,000 establishments each year out of the 8 million employers in the U.S. Unable to increase the amount of inspectors or inspections done per year, making businesses’ records public was one way for OSHA to encourage prevention of as many injuries as possible.
The shift toward behavioral based safety has also seen many positive results in other areas of compliance, such as how restaurants are required to post health ratings so the general public assists the public to make more informed decisions about what restaurants they would prefer to frequent.
Invasion of Privacy
Security concerns have arisen, but the reality is employee privacy would only be at risk if the names of the employees were submitted in the public injury report. In this case, OSHA is not publishing any personally identifiable information (PII), such as the injured employee’s name, home address or the name of the medical facility where they were cared for at after the injury occurred, which could be used to identify individual employees.
Greater Negative Exposure
The data asked to be reported in near real-time is already reported annually. The only difference now will be that another business or the general public will have access to information as to whether or not injuries keep occurring within an organization and visibility into what those injuries are so they can potentially mitigate the risk.
By having greater transparency amongst businesses, the playing field is leveled and healthy competition will increase. Also, in an indirect way, money will be saved, as businesses can make more informed decisions on who poses the least risk to do business with.
Though the scrutiny of OSHA will likely endure up until the first phase goes into effect on December 1, the data collected under the new rule will enable OSHA to create the largest near real-time publicly available data set on workplace injuries and illnesses and undoubtedly create more truthful perceptions of business safety practices.
Which side of the debate do you fall on?