OSHA: Final Recordkeeping Rule Protects Sensitive Employee Information

On January 25th 2019 the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a final rule, “Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses,” in an effort “to protect worker privacy.” The rule eliminates the requirement for establishments with 250 or more employees to electronically submit information from OSHA Form 300 (Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses) and OSHA Form 301 (Injury and Illness Incident Report) to OSHA each year.

In a press release, OSHA notes: “By preventing routine government collection of information that may be quite sensitive, including descriptions of workers’ injuries and body parts affected, OSHA is avoiding the risk that such information might be publicly disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). This rule will better protect personally identifiable information or data that could be re-identified with a particular worker by removing the requirement for covered employers to submit their information from Forms 300 and 301.”

Reduce Risk, Facilitate Compliance

Even though OSHA isn’t requesting that the 300 and 301 data to be submitted electronically, employers still are required to electronically submit information from OSHA Form 300A (Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses). The final rule does not alter an employer’s duty to maintain OSHA Forms 300 and 301 on-site, and OSHA will continue to obtain these forms as needed through inspections and enforcement actions. Recordkeeping violations routinely show up on lists of OSHA’s most frequently cited violations and can result in hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines. (See “OSHA’s Injury and Illness Recordkeeping Data Submission and Anti-Retaliation Rule: A Guide for Employers.”)

Almost 200,000 jobsites neglected to file their 2016 annual injury and illness log summaries by Dec. 31, 2017, violating OSHA’s electronic record-keeping rule, according to Bloomberg Environment. OSHA anticipated that 350,000 worksites would file, but only 153,653 did, and an additional 60,000 worksites that were not required to file did so.

Utilizing software solutions can help eradicate uncertainty and the risk of non-compliance. These solutions reduce the time and resources required to manage injury and illness reporting and free up time for you to analyze and implement proactive safety measures to reduce occupational injuries and diseases. A comprehensive health and safety program that complies with the relevant regulatory guidelines is best managed using a management system that tracks injuries, accidents, fatalities, worker safety, hazards and other aspects of occupational safety.

Software allows employers to always be prepared for an audit because they have the data (injury and illness reports, training records) at hand. The risk truly is mitigated with a proven, evergreen control. Even if you didn’t publish, print and save the report (hard copy) for 2018 for example, it can be provided in seconds with Intelex (apply filter and hit RUN).

Attorney: OSHA Did Not Fix Recordkeeping Rule

As a founding partner of Conn Maciel Carey and chair of the firm’s national OSHA Workplace Safety Group, attorney Eric J. Conn focuses exclusively on issues involving occupational safety and health law. He said that while he supports decision to not collect 300 and 301-level data, the amended rule does “not go nearly far enough to fix the problems with the E-recordkeeping rule.”

“There should have been some express provision added to prevent the data that is collected from being published, or at least not published along with employer-identifying information,” Conn continued. “They also should have struck the duplicative and unworkable anti-retaliation elements. And they should have modified the definition of high hazard industry to focus on actual high hazard industries, not perfectly average industries like it does now. I would have also liked to see the threshold number of employees to increase from 25, so as not to overburden really small employers.”

OSHA said the amended rule will allow the agency to focus its resources on initiatives that its experience has shown to be useful, including continued use of information from severe injury reports that helps target areas of concern, and seeking to fully utilize a large volume of data from Form 300A.

The agency also is amending the recordkeeping regulation to require covered employers to electronically submit their Employer Identification Number (EIN) with their information from Form 300A. The final rule’s requirement for employers to submit their EIN to OSHA electronically along with their information from OSHA Form 300A will make the data more useful for OSHA and the Bureau of Labor statistics and could reduce duplicative reporting burdens on employers in the future.

Collection of calendar year 2018 information from the OSHA Form 300A began on Jan. 2. The deadline for electronic submissions is March 2.

Additional Reading

Insight Reports:
Evaluating Safety Program Performance: An ISO 45001 Checklist for EHS Professionals
Changes to OSHA’s Electronic Recordkeeping Rule: 7 Key Guidelines for Employers
OSHA’s Most Common Citations And How You Can Avoid Them

Posts:
OSHA Veteran: Workplace Safety Starts with Setting – and Enforcing – ‘Cardinal Rules’

Sandy Smith is Global EHSQ Content Lead at Intelex Technologies Inc. and has spent 20+ years researching and writing about EHSQ and networking with EHSQ professionals. She is passionate about helping employers build and maintain safe workplaces and collaborate in creating workplace cultures that promote and support EHSQ.

 

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About Sandy Smith

Sandy Smith is the Global EHSQ Content Lead for Intelex Technologies. Formerly the Content Director for EHS Today, she has been writing about occupational safety and health and environmental issues since 1990. Her work as a journalist and editor has been recognized with national and international awards. She has been interviewed about occupational safety and health for national business publications, documentaries and television programs; has served as a panelist on roundtables; and has provided the keynote address for occupational safety and health conferences.

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