May 13, 2016 at 11:15 AM CST
A new rule requiring many U.S. businesses, including shippers and transport providers, to submit injury and illness data to regulators electronically will greatly increase the reach of those regulators and help direct enforcement action against companies.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration rule will affect most U.S. businesses, but particularly those on a list of “high-hazard” industries that includes freight transportation companies involved in trucking and several types of retail stores.
Under the final rule, released Wednesday, employers will have to electronically send injury and illness data they are already required by law to collect and keep on file to OHSA. The agency will post employer-specific information on workplace injuries on its website.
Business with as few as 20 employees may be affected by the regulation.
"Since high injury rates are a sign of poor management, no employer wants to be seen publicly as operating a dangerous workplace," Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health David Michaels said in a statement.
"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," he said.
“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," Michaels said.
That should sound familiar to U.S. trucking companies, freight brokers and shippers. OSHA’s aims, as expressed by Michaels, are not dissimilar to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s goals for the Compliance, Safety, Accountability or CSA program.
“The public disclosure of data can be a powerful tool in changing behavior,” OSHA said in its rulemaking. “In this case, the objective of disclosure of data on injuries and illnesses is to encourage employers to abate hazards and thereby prevent injuries and illnesses.”
OSHA and FMCSA face some similar obstacles implementing their safety agendas: Neither agency has the funding nor staff to physically audit all of the businesses regulated under its remit. Electronically capturing data can extend their reach.
The agency said it will create a secure website with electronic forms that employers will use to submit their data.
In addition, the data collected under the new rule will be much more timely than that captured in OSHA surveys, which is often at least a year out of date, and will be company-specific, the agency said.
“Without access to establishment-specific injury and illness data, OSHA has had great difficulty evaluating the effectiveness of its enforcement and compliance assistance activities,” the agency said. “Having these data will enable OSHA to conduct rigorous evaluations of different types of programs, initiatives and interventions in different industries and geographic areas.”
Under the new rule, all establishments with 250 or more employees in industries covered by the recordkeeping regulation must electronically submit data from OSHA Forms 300, 300A, and 301.
Establishments with 20 to 249 employees in “high-hazard” industries must electronically submit information from OSHA Form 300A only.
Those high-hazard industries include trucking, warehousing and delivery services, as well as support services for most types of transportation. The list also includes many types of companies that ship and receive freight, including several types of retail stores, automotive lessors and healthcare providers.
The new requirements take effect Aug. 10, with phased-in annual data submissions beginning in July 2017, the agency said. The agency rejected recommendations for quarterly or even monthly submissions.