OSHA is ramping up its rules to bring injury data collection into the 21st century. The new rules are intended to apply insights of behavioral economics to improve workplace safety and to better avoid workplace injuries and illnesses. The new regulation will require more than 400,000 employers with 20 to 249 employees in high-risk industries and 34,000 workplaces with over 250 employees to upload injury data to OSHA once a year. According to Dr. David Michaels, the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, “This is valuable information, The new rule will create a huge data set that can be used for many purposes, including tracking trends and providing employers with a tool they can use to benchmark against other companies in their industries.”
Over 3 million workers incur a workplace illness or injury every year. There’s little or no information by individual employers. The new rule is designed to close the gap. OSHA is also expecting the new rule to encourage businesses to operate safer and better managed facilities, as the collected data will be published on OSHA’s website. For example, OSHA compares its public posting to the public disclosure of a restaurant’s sanitary conditions. Not many patrons will be willing to dine at a restaurant rated with an “F.” Also, no company wants to be seen publicly as operating a dangerous workplace. It’s not good for patrons, job seekers and investors. Access to this injury data will also assist OSHA in better targeting its compliance assistance and enforcement resources to make workplaces safer.
The Dynamic Duo: Big Data and Predictive Analysis
With OSHA’s new regulation, it’s all about big data and predictive analysis working synergistically. The data will enable potential employees to identify safe workplaces, and employers can benchmark their own safety performance to improve their own safety programs. To encourage accurate data, the new rule protects against fear of retaliation for both employer and employee reports of work-related injuries. The data collected under the new rule will also be given to researchers for better study on injury cause, identifying new hazards and evaluating injury and illness prevention policies. All identifiable information is removed by OSHA before making the data publicly viewable. All establishments with 250+ employees covered by the recordkeeping regulation must electronically submit data on forms 300, 300A and 301. Those with less than 250 employees must submit data on OSHA form 300A. These new requirements take effect August 10, 2016.
OSHA’s New Rule and the Healthcare Industry
Few hospitals and health-care facilities provide the public with specific data on cases of harm to due medical mistakes. In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention doesn’t require the reporting of medical errors in the collected data about deaths garnered through billing codes. As a result, it’s difficult to see what’s happening on the national level. John Hopkins University researchers estimates that medical error is the third leading cause of death in the United States, claiming over 200,000 deaths per year. Giving the wrong drugs and removing the wrong body parts dominate the news, but the underlying problem is that people are dying from the care they receive rather than from the disease.
A study done by the Institute of Medicine revealed that medical errors are an epidemic. Martin Makary, professor of surgery at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine said, “The CDC should update its vital statistics reporting requirements so that physicians must report whether there was any error that led to a preventable death.” Whether it’s bad doctors or systemic problems, reporting is necessary. Lack of data just makes it too hard to figure out where medical errors are occurring and how to fix them. It appears that this facet of the medical industry needs some new rules for gathering data.
However, the new OSHA requirements apply to healthcare employees, including those who work in ambulatory care services, psychiatric hospitals, residential care facilities, surgical hospitals and nursing care facilities. All employers must establish work-related injuries procedures and report them to OSHA. In addition to stepping up rules for healthcare public reporting, OSHA has stepped up its scrutiny of healthcare work hazards.
OSHA’s new regulation has been met with mixed reactions. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has criticized it for the following reasons:
- Potential issues centered on privacy
- Violation of the 1st and 4th amendments
- OSHA’s cost-benefit analysis overstated
- No call of action if information is inaccurate
- Gives special interest group the opportunity to misconstrue the data
- Publishing private information may be harmful to employees and employers.
On the flip side, many support OSHA’s new regulation. The United Steelworkers feels that it will serve to protect the interests and rights of American workers. Electronic posting allows for access to critical data, better prepares unions and management officials to identify hazards and prevent injuries, allows for no fear of retaliation for reporting and helps ensure the accuracy of workplace injury or illness reporting. All around, the new regulation remains a topic of interest and controversy.
Years of the Obama administration have enhanced OSHA’s regulations. OSHA has enacted new rules for the aging working population, rapid response forms, criminal liability, the Silica Rule, recordkeeping rules and ergonomics. The year 2016 comes with enhanced OSHA enforcement, increased citations, greater penalties and new OSHA regulations. All around, it’s been an aggressive agenda. Employers must continue to be vigilant, keep informed and respond properly. To stay in compliance, employers can visit the OSHA website, view its tutorials or even call the closet local area office. Employers can also visit the OSHA website to view new publications and view OSHA’s videos — even get a free onsite consultation. Staying in compliance is critical for both small and larger businesses.
John Colvin is a personal injury lawyer in Winchester, TN. Mr. Colvin has represented clients suffering from serious worker injuries for over two decades. John is also a member of the LawGuru Attorney Network.