OSHA 300 Reporting Changes- Employers must electronically submit work related injury and illness data
The Occupational and Health Safety Administration (OSHA) has now called for all employers to submit work-related injury and illness data electronically. In the past, employers often did not submit this data and in some cases even forbade the injured employee from contacting OSHA.
In 2015/16, there were nearly 621,000 workers who sustained a non-fatal injury at work based on self-reports. At the same time, there were 144 workers killed as a result of a workplace event. Nearly ¼ of these individuals fell from a height and the rest were either struck by a moving vehicle or by a heavy moving object.
Of these non-fatal injuries, nearly 200,000 workers had more than 3-days of work and 150,000 had at least 7 days absence. The majority of the non-fatal injuries were a result of carrying lifting heavy objects (20%), tripping or slipping (19%) and being hit by a moving object (10%).
During the same period last year, employers only reported 72,702 non-fatal injuries to OSHA. The numbers reported by employers are believed to be gross under-estimates for fear of penalties and fines.
Based on these numbers, it is estimated that nearly 4.5 million working days are lost due to self-reported workplace injuries, averaging about 7 days per case.
The major problem arises because these data do not really correlate with the actual number of people who file for workman’s compensation -and this is primarily due to under-reporting by the employer.
The other reason why OSHA has now insisted that all employers communicate work-related injury electrotonically is to understand the prevalence. Because of past under-reporting rates, it is difficult to know if the work-related injury is increasing or decreasing. The government has invested large amounts of money and there have been a myriad number of rules in place to ensure worker safety. So if the reporting is not accurate, all the time and money invested may have been a waste of time.
Based on the data that are currently available, it appears that there is a decline in both non-fatal and fatal injuries in the workplace. Reports of self-reported non-fatal injuries to workers have continued to show a downward trend up to 2011 but since then have plateaued. On the other hand, the rates of non-fatal injuries to workers reported by employers continue to show a long-term downward trend- so it is obvious that there is a mismatch in reporting. Either the self-reported employee injuries are being magnified or that the employers are minimizing the injuries.
OSHA first stated in May 2016, that employers would have to electronically submit the workplace injury and illness data and that these data will be posted on a public website.
The key reason why OSHA is changing this rule in reporting is to ensure that workers are safe at work and that there are universal safety standards in place. The other reason why OSHA insists on this reporting is that by making the injury data available to the public, it will hopefully force employers to focus on safety. By paying more attention to safety, it will not only lead to loss of limbs but also save lives. The overall aim is to improve the accuracy of data reporting and at the same time ensure that workers will not fear any retaliation for self-reporting their injuries.
This new rule went into effect on Jan 1, 2017. OSHA already has online injury and illness forms that can be completed online. OSHA will enforce this rule and compliance more stringently than before. More important by public decimation of the injury data, it will encourage employers to improve workplace safety and provide valuable information to their customers and public.
This OSHA ruling also prohibits employers from preventing or discouraging the employee from reporting an illness or an injury suffered at work. Employers must inform the employee of their right to report any work-related injury or illness free from any retaliation.
These new reporting requirements will be phased over the next 24 months. For those who do not comply with the reporting rules or continue to retaliate against employees, OSHA has not ruled out monetary penalties and work closures as two possibilities.
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