OSHA Finalizes Rule On Employer Disclosure Of Workplace Injuries, Illnesses

Date: May 16, 2016

Regulation Would Make Employer Data Available To Public, Harm Confidentiality, Businesses Argue

The Obama Administration has continued its trend of gross over-regulation of the business community with the unveiling of the Occupational and Safety Hazard Administration’s final rule on the publication of data on workplace injuries and illnesses. In a release announcing the rule, OSHA said it will apply to any business with at least 250 employees in an industry currently subject to OSHA recordkeeping rules, as well as any business with between 20-249 employees in certain industries including agriculture, manufacturing, construction, and some retail. Depending on the business’ size, there will be a varying number of new forms to fill out, boosting the already burdensome paperwork that comes from labor regulations. Defending the new rule, Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA, Dr. David Michaels, said, “Our new reporting requirements will ‘nudge’ employers to prevent worker injuries and illnesses to demonstrate to investors, job seekers, customers and the public that they operate safe and well-managed facilities. Access to injury data will also help OSHA better target our compliance assistance and enforcement resources at establishments where workers are at greatest risk, and enable ‘big data’ researchers to apply their skills to making workplaces safer.” However, business groups recognize that the new regulations will harm, more than help, US job creators. The Wall Street Journal reports US Chamber of Commerce Senior Vice President of Labor Randy Johnson, said, “Instead of improving workplace safety, this will only create a new filing requirement that will lead to sensitive employer data being published without context or explanation.” He cautioned that unions might be able to use such workplace safety data, once publicly available, to malign employers while organizing pro-labor campaigns, and that attorneys could use the data to bring specious suits against employers.

What Happens Next

The final rule won’t take effect immediately. The Journal pointed out that it will be phased in, with initial requirements starting August 10, 2016 and the rest implemented over a two-year period. OSHA’s methods for sorting and displaying the workplace data they receive in an online, publicly-accessible manner remains unclear.

What This Means For Small Businesses

While workplace safety is a top priority for businesses large and small, the regulatory environment that OSHA is creating with its new rule will make it tougher to do business, particularly for small businesses who lack the time and resources to fill out additional paperwork. Furthermore, additional reporting of worker injuries and illnesses could create a more litigious environment, which small businesses can ill afford.

Additional Reading

The Hill, the Huffington Post , and the Business Journals also reported on OSHA’s final rule.

Note: this article is intended to keep small business owners up on the latest news. It does not necessarily represent the policy stances of NFIB.

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