Although the government shutdown continues, some wheels still continue to turn in the U.S. Department of Labor. On January 24, 2019, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) announced finalization of a rule to roll back electronic data submission for large employers and employers in high-risk industry. In its trade release, OSHA states that the deregulatory action will “improve enforcement targeting and compliance assistance, protect worker privacy and safety, and decrease burden on employers.”
OSHA RECORDKEEPING AND REPORTING REQUIREMENTS
OSHA regulation 29 CFR 1904 requires employers with ten or more employees to keep records of work-related injuries, illnesses, and fatalities using OSHA Forms 300, 300A, and 301. Covered employers must maintain these records for a period of five years and make them available to OSHA inspectors and employee representatives upon request. Employers are also required to post Form 300A in the workplace for a two-month period so that employees can view the previous calendar year’s annual summary data.
In 2016, OSHA approved the Improve Tracking of Workplace Injury and Illness Rule. This rule requires employers to inform employees of their right to report injuries and illness without retaliation, establish reporting procedures which will not “deter or discourage” employees from reporting, and avoid programs which may be interpreted as retaliatory (such as workplace incentive programs which withdraw bonuses or other rewards when an injury is reported).
The rule also required establishments with 250 employees, as well as smaller establishments in certain high-risk industries, to electronically submit occupational injury and illness data through OSHA’s online portal, the Injury Tracking Application (ITA). In its 2016 proposed rule, OSHA stated that the requirement would allow the agency to identify “the workplaces where workers are at the greatest risk” through its access to timely, establishment-specific data. The requirement was also intended to “nudge” employers to improve workplace safety in order to avoid scrutiny by OSHA and the public.
The regulations specified that large employers must submit information from all three record-keeping forms (300, 300A, and 301), but the rule was designed to phase in this requirement gradually. For the first reporting year, employers were only required to submit information from Form 300A. Large employers were scheduled to start submitting data from the other two forms starting in 2017, but OSHA announced that it would not accept information from Forms 300 and 301 because the agency intended to alter the rule.
FINAL OSHA RECORDKEEPING AND REPORTING RULE: FORM 300A DATA STILL REQUIRED
OSHA issued its proposed rule in August of 2018. On January 24, 2019, the agency announced the final rule, set to be published in the Federal Register on January 25. Under the new rule, employers will no longer be required to submit Form 300 and 301 data through the online portal. OSHA cited potential worker privacy risks, such as the vulnerability of data to Freedom of Information Act requests, and “uncertain enforcement value” as reasons for pulling back the requirement and lowering the employer burden.
Although some employers hoped for an end to all electronic data submission, the new rule still requires covered employers to electronically submit Form 300A summary data and in fact notes that elimination of the other requirements will allow OSHA to pay more focused attention to the large volume of summary data. The deadline for submission of Form 300A data from 2018 to OSHA’s Injury Tracking Application is March 2, 2019. The new rule also requires employers to submit their Employer Identification Number (EIN) with their data in order to avoid duplicative reporting burdens in the future.
OSHA reminds employers that they are still required to maintain Forms 300 and 301 for OSHA inspection. Employers should also have a printed version of Form 300A ready to post in the workplace on February 1 and remain posted through April 1.
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