The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) announced that it will extend the comment period to March 8, 2014, on its proposed rule to require certain employers to electronically submit employee injury and illness information for public viewing.
As of now, employers with more than ten employees and whose establishments are not classified as a “partially exempt industry” 1 must record work-related injuries and illnesses using OSHA Forms 300, 300A and 301. Current and former employees, or their representatives, have the right to access injury and illness records, and employers are required to provide a copy of the relevant record, upon request, by the end of the next business day.
However, OSHA’s new rule would require employers with more than 250 employees to file electronic injury and illness reports on a quarterly basis, in addition to any OSHA request for such information. OSHA also intends to make the injury and illness reports available to the general public.
Larger employers should be concerned by this development, as these reports will now be readily available to all employees, plaintiff’s attorneys, and unions for quick and easy analysis. Having this information at their fingertips, plaintiff’s attorneys will be able to quickly analyze any pattern of errant behavior of the employer, and unions will use the information for organizing the workplace. The reporting system will also make the identification of potential plaintiffs for class action lawsuits more efficient and less expensive for plaintiffs’ counsel.
OSHA held a public hearing on January 9, 2014 on the issue, and it will accept written comments until March 8, 2014. These public comments are often an effective means of altering or opposing a given rule, as demonstrated in the NLRB’s recent failure to implement its notice posting requirement. If you have any questions regarding OSHA’s reporting requirements or how to submit a written comment to OSHA, please do not hesitate to contact your local Labor & Employment Counsel at Smith, Gambrell & Russell, LLP .
1 Partially exempt industries include certain low-hazard retail, service, finance, insurance or real estate industries.