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On Aug. 1, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) launched its application to electronically submit injury and illness data—but covered employers won't be required to use the system until later this year.
It's important for employers to note that they don't have to submit anything through the electronic application on Aug. 1, said Ben Huggett, an attorney with Littler in Philadelphia. That's just the date it became publicly available.
OSHA initially wanted certain employers to submit electronic data by July 1, but the portal wasn't made available to employers. The agency announced last month that it planned to postpone electronic reporting to Dec. 1.
For now, employers should just take a look at the electronic application and figure out how they will submit the information, said Eric Hobbs, an attorney with Ogletree Deakins in Milwaukee.
Patrick Miller, an attorney with Sherman & Howard in Denver, told SHRM Online that it was no surprise when OSHA moved to postpone the effective date. The extension was meant to give the agency time to get its Injury Tracking Application (ITA) up and running and to allow the Trump administration more time to evaluate the rule, he said.
Miller said employers should take time to figure out if they are covered by the electronic record-keeping rule. The Dec. 1 start date applies to establishments that are covered by OSHA's record-keeping regulations and have 250 or more employees, as well as covered establishments with 20-249 employees in certain hazardous industries.
Huggett noted that the employer size is determined by the worksite, not the total size of the business across locations.
For Dec. 1, covered employers are required to electronically submit injury and illness data from their 2016 Form 300A—which is a summary of workplace injuries and illnesses. Employers must already record this information and post it in the workplace from Feb. 1 until Apr. 30 of each year.
Eventually, large employers will have to electronically submit data from Form 300 (the injury and illness log) and Form 301 (incident reports for each injury or illness) as well.
[SHRM members-only how-to guide: How to complete OSHA Form 300]
OSHA explained that the data submission process will involve four steps:
The website will offer three options for data submission. Employers can:
"Employers should be prepared to become familiar with the ITA before their particular deadlines come due," Miller said.
The electronic record-keeping rule is controversial—particularly because some of the data might be made available to the public on the agency's website. OSHA has said it will "remove all personally identifiable information associated with the data before it is publicly accessible."
Obama administration-era OSHA officials said that "making injury information publicly available will 'nudge' employers to focus on safety." But opponents claim that public disclosure would unreasonably harm employers.
Employers will likely want to hold off on submitting the data until their particular deadline arrives. Even if OSHA leaders under the Trump administration decide not to make the data public—and there's no guarantee of that—the information would still be subject to Freedom of Information Act requests, Huggett noted.
The rule also contains controversial anti-retaliation provisions—interpretations of the rule that place limitations on safety incentive programs and drug-testing policies that might deter workers from reporting accidents. Those provisions already took effect in December 2016.
It isn't clear what will happen with the rule between now and the next compliance deadline. Hobbs said the rule could remain as it is now with no change in substance or interpretation, or employers may see some alterations.
Employers should ensure they have all the information needed for electronic submission, Huggett said. As of Aug. 1, they will be able to review what the electronic format is going to look like and should consider how they are going to submit the data.
Businesses should also examine their injury and illness record-keeping procedures and make sure they are only recording what they have to, he said, noting that employers sometimes opt to over-record rather than risk underreporting.
Some injuries—like those requiring basic first aid—aren't recordable. However, covered employers must log work-related injuries and illnesses that involve:
Over-recording injuries can unintentionally make the business look bad. If information will be made available to the public, the average employer isn't going to want to report more than it has to, Huggett said.
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