OSHA Issues Final Rule Intended to Improve Tracking of Workplace Injury and Illness, Protect Workers
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently issued a final rule for businesses that government officials believe will improve workplace safety across the country.
Beginning in January of 2017, OSHA will require many American employers to electronically submit data summarizing incidents of injury and illness in their workplace, some of which will become available publicly at www.osha.gov.
Many of the businesses subject to the rule are companies with more than 250 employees that are already submitting similar data to OSHA, but not publicly or electronically. Businesses in that category will be required to start electronically submitting the data that they already report.
OSHA officials believe that releasing the data in standard, open formats online will encourage employers to better guard their workers from injury and illness, partly because businesses will be compelled to “race to the top in terms of worker safety.” The requirement is also intended to create a new resource for researchers to use to identify safety hazards before they become widespread, and to help companies to make workplaces safer.
Increasing Accountability for Workplace Safety
A key takeaway from the announcement is that the rule also applies to small to medium size companies in industries with particularly high injury and illness rates. This provision will help to protect workers who may not enjoy the safety resources generally in place at larger companies in their industry, including many farm workers, taxi drivers, and workers in small to midsize utilities and manufacturing companies.
Once the rule takes effect, these workers will be able to benefit from a greater sense of accountability for workplace safety on the part of their employers, whose injury and illness records will now be available for public view. Garden centers, construction companies, amusement parks and school transportation companies that employ between 20 and 249 people are among the small to medium size companies that will have to report worker injury and illness data to OSHA for public consumption.
Protecting Workers’ Right to Report Injuries
Additionally, the rule includes provisions that encourage workers to report workplace injuries and illnesses to their employers, and that protect workers who report injuries from employer retaliation.
These kinds of mechanisms are particularly important, as they help to ensure that injured workers have access to the workers’ compensation benefits that they are guaranteed by law, including compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and other expenses related to a workplace injury. Far too often, workers are denied workers’ compensation either because they are unaware of their rights, because they fear retaliation from their employer for reporting an injury, or because they experience actual retaliation, including firing, after making a workers’ compensation claim.
As attorneys committed to ensuring that injured workers receive the compensation that they are owed, and to educating Delaware workers about their workers’ comp rights, the Kimmel Carter team applauds OSHA’s new rule and their continued efforts to protect American workers in every field.