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OSHA Finalizes New Rules For Tracking Workplace Injuries And Illnesses

On May 12, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration published the final regulations for the Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses. The first two parts of this rule become effective on Aug. 10.

Part one requires employers to inform their employees how to report illnesses and injuries. Most gins should already have a good practice in place to meet this requirement.

Part two requires employers to inform their employees of their rights to report injuries and that they cannot be discriminated against for reporting. OSHA has issued a poster that should help gins meet this requirement.
The third part of the rule is much more complicated and will not begin until 2017. This part requires all employers with more than 250 employees, and some employers with 20-250 employees, to submit illness and injury data to OSHA each year through a portal on its website.

The rules are different for larger employers. For employers with 20-250 employees, only some groups will have to report. One of these is an employer with a North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code beginning with 11, which includes cotton gins. Under this rule, gins must submit the information from the OSHA 300A form. This is summary data only and is the form that all employers must currently post on Feb. 1 each year. OSHA will develop a website that allows each employer to manually enter this data into the OSHA system. OSHA will then post the data publicly in some manner. The 2016 data will be posted by July 1, 2017. Similarly, the deadline for 2018 is also July 1. After that, the reports will be due on March 2 each year.

In the preamble to the rule, OSHA describes this rule as an effort to “nudge” employers to abate hazards by applying behavioral science in the context of making all injuries at a facility public and basically “shaming” employers into preventing accidents. The idea is that OSHA will publish all the data entered by employers, so that perspective employees and customers can see what the injury data looks like at any business.

Injury Reporting Scrutinized
OSHA also states that it will watch more closely for evidence that an employer is discouraging workers from reporting injuries. Two examples that it gives of policies that would discourage reporting are certain drug testing policies and incentive programs. OSHA states that a policy of drug testing all workers after an injury could be considered discriminatory. The examples it gives include drug testing after a bee sting or a musculoskeletal disorder (MSD) injury. We need to be careful in this area, although OSHA cannot supersede state workers compensation rules.
Incentive and bonus programs must also be done carefully so that they do not discourage reporting. OSHA particularly does not like programs that give a bonus based on no reported injuries for a period of time. It says these programs specifically put pressure on workers not to report injuries.

This rule does not look particularly difficult to meet, but on the other hand, it gives OSHA another excuse for coming into a workplace without any employee complaint or incident. The cotton ginning industry and many other industry groups opposed this rule for several reasons. As with many other recent OSHA regulations, industry concerns were largely ignored.

Kelley Green, technical services director of the Texas Cotton Ginners’ Association, contributed this article. Contact him at 512-476-8388 or kelley@tcga.org.