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OSHA Releases Safety Reporting Rule

A revised safety reporting rule has been released by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. It is designed to improve the collection of injury data — a move that could have a direct impact on tower construction firms and the way they comply with reporting injury data.

The newly finalized rule expands OSHA’s reporting guidelines by requiring differently-sized employers in high-hazard industries to submit injury and illness information to OSHA electronically. The move builds on an already existing rule that requires these employers to submit paper forms of injury and illness data to the agency.

What’s new now is the addition of the electronic submission requirement.

Specifically, certain establishments — including tower construction — with more than 250 employees covered by the recordkeeping regulation must electronically submit information from their injury logs (in legalese, a form known as OSHA 300), their year-end summary of injuries (OSHA 300A) and their individual incident reports (OSHA 301) on an annual basis.

Most tower construction and maintenance contractors are small businesses with fewer than 250 employees and will fall under the requirement to electronically submit the OSHA Form 300A summary log form, said Todd Schlekeway, executive director of the National Association of Tower Erectors.

Likewise, companies with 20–249 employees in other industries will be required to electronically report information from their 300A annual summary form. Exempt companies that are not in are either of these two categories only need to submit injury and illness records if requested by OSHA.

The new requirements take effect Aug. 10, 2016, with phased in data submissions beginning in 2017. OSHA plans to post the reported information on a publicly accessible database.

For those tower firms who hire part-time or temporary workers to keep up with construction demand, keep this in mind: these individuals count as employees in determining what type of forms should be electronically submitted to OSHA. According to OSHA regulations, each individual employed in the establishment at any time during the calendar year counts as one employee, including full-time, part-time, seasonal and temporary workers.

“After conducting a thorough review of the new OSHA reporting requirements, we don’t believe the new regulations to be overtly burdensome on companies in the industry,” Schlekeway said. “As stated previously, tower firms are already collecting this data and the extra step of electronically submitting the data should be able to be handled efficiently from an administrative standpoint.”

Schlekeway added that the public disclosure of company specific injury and illness data would create a culture of accountability that could ultimately enhance safety in the industry. “As long as the injury and illness data is utilized for what it is intended for, there is great value there from a safety and health perspective,” he said.

According to OSHA, this new electronic disclosure of work injury data is designed to encourage — OSHA used the word “nudge” — employers to increase their efforts to prevent work-related injuries and illnesses. The new rule is also designed to modernize injury data collection in an effort to better inform workers, employers, the public and OSHA about workplace hazards, the agency said.

“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,” said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health.

Access to injury data will also help OSHA improve compliance assistance and enforcement resources, he said.

OSHA, part of U.S. Department of Labor, requires many employers to keep a record of injuries and illnesses, but currently little information about worker injuries is made public or available to OSHA. The subsequent electronic database will allow researchers to better study injury causation, identify new workplace safety hazards, and evaluate the effectiveness of injury and illness prevention activities, OSHA said.

In addition to the new electronic reporting obligations, the rule strengthens protections for employees so they can report injuries and illnesses without fear of retaliation.

The final rule is available for review at the Federal Register.

OSHA Electronic Compliance Reporting Schedule

New reporting requirements from OSHA will be phased in over two years.

  • Establishments with 250 or more employees in industries covered by the recordkeeping regulation must submit information from their 2016 Form 300A by July 1, 2017. These same employers will be required to submit information from all 2017 forms (300A, 300, and 301) by July 1, 2018. Beginning in 2019 and every year thereafter, the information must be submitted by March 2.
  • Establishments with 20–249 employees in certain high-risk industries must submit information from their 2016 Form 300A by July 1, 2017, and their 2017 Form 300A by July 1, 2018. Beginning in 2019 and every year thereafter, the information must be submitted by March 2.

What are the key facts for tower companies to understand about the new reporting requirements?

  • Tower companies need to know that the new requirements outlined in the OSHA rule take effect Aug. 10, 2016, with phased-in data submissions beginning in 2017. Companies also need to understand that these requirements do not add to or change an employer’s obligation to complete and retain injury and illness records under the Recording and Reporting Occupational Injuries and Illnesses regulation.
  • Tower construction and maintenance firms also need to understand that their company injury and illness data that is electronically submitted to OSHA per the new requirement will be posted on OSHA’s website and made publicly available for anyone to review. OSHA has said that personally identifiable information contained in the company’s data will be removed prior to posting.

The concept from OSHA is that this public disclosure will shed light on companies with unsafe practices, assist in helping companies benchmark their safety and health performance against other companies and ultimately raise the bar on workplace safety.