It’s estimated approximately 3 million workers in the U.S. suffer some type of work-related illness or injury every single year. But even those figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) are believed to be vastly under-reported. But amazingly, very little to no information about where these workplace injuries happen is related the public or even to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which is the government entity responsible for enforcement of workplace safety in the country.
But now, OSHA has passed a new rule that requires employers who oversee companies in certain “high-hazard” industries will have to send information about these accidents directly to OSHA. The data will then be available for posting on the agency’s website.
The new rule also contains certain protections against retaliation for employees who report work-related illnesses and injuries.
OSHA’s assistant secretary of labor said many people have no idea OSHA isn’t already privy to this information. He said the hope is that some industries will be motivated to raise safety standards because they know any failures are going to reflect directly back on them. There may be some occasions where workplace injuries become public, but not all. The assistant secretary said in the same way restaurants know their sanitation conditions are public knowledge, so too should workplace safety.
What’s more, when rates of injury are especially high at a certain location, it’s a good indication of poor management. That can help OSHA red-flag potential problem sites.
On top of that, workers will have the opportunity to choose safer workplaces.
The rule has been proposed numerous times, and has been lauded by workplace safety advocates. For example, a representative with the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (COSH) called the measure an important step toward greater transparency. The agency spokeswoman said this new data will help her team better assess how workers are becoming hurt and sick on-the-job, which will help them more accurately support directives and legislation that will make a real difference.
The AFL-CIO, which represents union worker interests, released a statement praising the new provisions that create better protections against retaliation. The president stated companies have long retaliated against workers who reported workplace injuries because they wanted to keep their official injury rates low. This new measure, the president said, should help workers feel more secure in coming forward to report dangerous conditions and injuries.
However, it wasn’t all praise. Perhaps predictably, several business groups derided the measure. For example, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce called the action, “misguided,” arguing good companies will be unfairly labeled. Further, a representative warned, these reports won’t accurately reflect whether a workplace is actually safe and whether a company is committed to improvement. Other business groups argued the rule would be an undue burden on employers.
But the new rule doesn’t mandate workplaces collect any additional information. The only ones affected will be those in the “most dangerous” industries (i.e., hospitals, manufacturing, construction, chemical plants, food processing, trucking, etc.). Those places will need to simply report to OSHA the information they already gather. Personal information will be removed by OSHA before it is posted to the website.
OSHA is responsible for the oversight of some 130 million workers at 8 million companies nationally. Yet is has only 2,200 inspectors. That means this kind of regulated self-reporting by companies is imperative.
If you have been injured at work, contact the Lee Law Offices at 800-887-1965.
New Rule Will Make Information About On-the-Job Injuries at Dangerous Workplaces Public, May 19, 2016, by Elizabeth Grossman, Truth-Out.org
More Blog Entries:
Smith v. Young – Why You Need a Workers’ Compensation Attorney, May 22, 2016, Greensboro Workers’ Compensation Attorney Blog