By Katherine M. Wrenshall, Esquire
According to reported OSHA data released in 2012, 19.6% of worker fatalities in the private industry occurred during a construction project. This makes the announcement of a new proposed rule given on November 7, 2013, by Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of OSHA, particularly relevant to the construction industry. The new rule would require establishments with 250 or more employees that are already obligated to keep injury records to electronically submit those records to OSHA on a quarterly basis. The rule would also require establishments with 20 or more employees in industries with high injury and illness rates to electronically submit their injury and illness logs each year. In order to facilitate these changes, OSHA will provide a secure website for the data collection. Once personally identifiable information is removed, OSHA will post the data on its website.
Paul O’Neill, former Secretary of the Treasury and former ALCOA CEO, strongly endorsed the proposal, stating that ALCOA continues to post its injury and illness rate online in real time, a practice Mr. O’Neill instituted during his tenure at ALCOA. “I think this [OSHA proposed rule] is a great initiative,” Mr. O’Neill said. He attributes low injury rates at ALCOA to their real-time safety data reporting system. Dr. Michaels said that the newly proposed submission requirements will also enable employers to compare their safety records against peers and will allow workers to know the safety records of potential employers. According to Dr. Michaels, aggregating data across industries will help researchers identify emerging hazards and patterns.
Business groups say that they are likely to oppose the plan, claiming that raw injury data can be misconstrued or that sensitive information may be disclosed and subsequently misused. Marc Freedman, executive director for labor policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said that the mere recording of an injury does not tell the full story about the circumstances surrounding it or whether the company has a good overall safety program. “Making company-specific data on injuries available for all to see would be a major problem and would likely lead to companies being targeted by outside groups who want to characterize these employers as having bad safety records,” Freedman stated.
A public meeting on the proposed rule will be held in Washington, D.C. on January 9, 2014. OSHA will accept public comments on the proposed rule until February 6, 2014. All of those comments will be carefully reviewed before OSHA promulgates a final rule. According to OSHA, the cost of compliance would be $183 per year for establishments with 250 or more workers, and $9 per year for those with 20 or more employees.