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Deadline for Comment on New OSHA Record Keeping Rule Approaching

3/5/2014 | Construction Blog

The amended deadline for public comment on the new regulation pertaining to keeping records on construction worksite injuries is looming. As of today, public comment on the proposed change will close on March 8, 2014.

Under the proposed change, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration wants to require electronic submission of injury and illness records that are already required under Part 1904 of the Act. This rule would apply to employers with more than 250 employees and those deemed to be working in industries of high injury and illness rates with 20 or more employees.

OSHA’s stated intention with the new regulation is to allow those who study the incidences of work place injuries the ability to access the data more easily and to allow for public dissemination of the information on the world wide web. OSHA also hopes to track compliance more easily by moving to this system. Despite the stated intentions, there are potential problems with this rule which employers should consider carefully.osha-form-300

The largest problem centers on the issue of privacy. Employers are presently permitted to maintain these records internally. While OSHA is emphasizing its position that the records are being kept anyway, the indirect suggestion that OSHA reviews them regularly and that it’s not a large change is inaccurate. OSHA personnel don’t often see these records except in cases where an investigation is undertaken or in an even rarer case of the records being requested for survey purposes. In addition to the fact that the government would now have easy access to this wide array of private information, employers are rightfully concerned by the intention to place this sensitive information on a web site for public consumption.

Most employers are focused on the invasion of employee privacy, but other possible effects give cause for concern. Public exposure of this information opens companies up to “secondary prosecutions” when individuals other than OSHA review the records and point out perceived problems. This leaves open the possibility of such third party reviews being used as a weapon. In a related sense, such an approach could lead to substantial harm to a business’ reputation and, more importantly, discourage companies from reporting the injuries. Finally, the rhetorical question of how much implementing the new system will cost – both for the government and private companies – must be considered.

Problems abound with this new rule. Perhaps this is why it took the appropriate federal authorities 2 years to even allow the notice of the proposed rule making to be issued. Public comment on the rule will be accepted until March 8, 2014, and can be made at OSHA’s website. Regardless of one’s stance on the issue, careful attention should be paid to it given its undeniably big impact.