New OSHA Reporting Rule Takes Effect January 1, 2017

Earlier this year, OSHA issued its final rule requiring some employers to electronically submit workplace safety information.  Some of this information will subsequently be made public, meaning that employers and the public will have access to employer-specific data to compare safety performance.  In addition, the final rule expressly contains anti-retaliation measures for workers who report injuries and illnesses.  With 2016 coming to a close, the final rule’s provisions will soon become effective and employers should be aware of the rule’s implications.

The final rule does not alter current reporting or tracking requirements; instead, it requires employers who are already covered by recordkeeping regulations to take the additional step of submitting information to OSHA electronically, via a secure website.  Per the OSHA announcement, electronic submission of the information can be completed in three different ways: (1) employers can manually enter data into an online form; (2) employers can upload CSV files; or (3) employers with automated recordkeeping systems can submit the information via an API (application programming interface).  OSHA has announced that the site to submit this electronic information will be launched in February 2017.

This part of the rule becomes effective January 1, 2017 (although the site will not be active yet).  Employers who are already required to maintain safety records (including employers with 250 or more employees and those with 20-249 employees in certain industries) must ultimately submit the electronic information to OSHA by no later than July 2, 2017.  This means that employers should look to finalize 2016 safety data and be ready to submit the information to OSHA before July 2, 2017.  This deadline is scheduled to move up to March starting in 2019.

Separately, the final rule introduces new anti-retaliation measures aimed at protecting workers who report work-related injuries or illnesses.  Employers do not need to provide new notices to workers about the new rule; instead, updating the currently-required OSHA workplace poster satisfies the new final rule.  The rule also states that an employer’s workplace safety reporting system must be “reasonable.”  Per OSHA, a reasonable reporting system is one that does not “deter or discourage reasonable employees from reporting work-related injuries or illnesses.”  These anti-retaliation provisions were originally intended to go into effect on August 10, 2016, but due to pending cases challenging the provisions, OSHA agreed to delay enforcement.  Regardless of the pending case outcome, employers should be sure to have the required OSHA posting displayed, maintain a fair reporting system for injuries and illnesses, and refrain from actions that may appear to be retaliatory against any workers reporting injuries or illnesses.

The final rule can be found here.

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