If the OSHA proposal becomes a rule, 'fleets should be prepared for their injury and illness information to become public record so anyone can use it to paint any picture they want,” contends TIA's Kevin Rohlwing.

OSHA rule would give public electronic access to workplace reports

Jan. 15, 2014
NPRM calls for reporting workplace injuries and illnesses electronically

The Dept. of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is proposing to switch from the traditional reporting of workplace injuries and illnesses (using annual paper Form 300A) to requiring electronic delivery of that information.

The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) is titled “Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses” (Docket No. OSHA–2013–0023) and it was posted in The Federal Register (Vol. 78, No. 217) for Nov. 8, 2013.

The NPRM states that the new rule aims “to improve workplace safety and health through the collection of useful, accessible, establishment-specific injury and illness data to which OSHA currently does not have direct, timely, and systematic access.”

While electronically reporting the required data to OSHA assumedly would save time, the proposal makes privacy a key issue as the information reported would be available to the public via the OSHA website.

OSHA cited the “Open Government” initiative launched by the White House as partly driving that, but the agency also stated that it “believes that public access to timely, establishment-specific injury and illness data will improve workplace safety and health.

“With the information acquired [electronically] through this proposed rule,” OSHA pointed out, “employers, employees, employee representatives, the government, and researchers will be better able to identify and remove workplace hazards.”

Kevin Rohlwing, senior vice president of training for the Tire Industry Assn. (TIA) attended a public meeting that OSHA held January 9-10 at the Dept. of Labor in Washington.

Rohlwing told FleetOwner that union and other labor representatives who spoke at the forum were “overwhelmingly” in favor of making the electronically gathered information publicly available. He said they gave numerous examples of companies that “discouraged employees from reporting injuries and punished those who blew the whistle on unsafe work environments.”

“This meeting was a perfect example of the never-ending struggle between management and labor,” he continued. “The labor groups that testified were all in favor of making injury and illness data available to the public because they agree with OSHA's stance that this will encourage employers to provide a safer workplace.

“On the other hand,” Rohlwing pointed out, “groups that represented industry were adamant that injury and illness data must remain private because it is too easy to take it out of context and paint an inaccurate picture of a particular company or business.”

As Rohlwing sees it, “officials at government agencies are always asking for examples of how a particular regulation is hurting or would hurt a particular business.”

However, he said that based on the testimony of the public meeting, “OSHA officials have no idea how CSA [Compliance, Safety, Accountability safety-rating program] data is being used by people outside vehicle-safety enforcement-- and it’s not in the interests of improving driving safety.

“OSHA needs to hear from the industry how CSA data is being misused,” Rohlwing stressed. “If they don’t, then fleets should be prepared for their injury and illness information to become public record so anyone can use it to paint any picture they want.”

This rule change will also come at a price. In its own words, the agency stated that it “estimates that this rule will have economic costs of $11.9 million per year, including $10.5 million per year to the private sector, with costs of $183 per year for affected establishments with 250 or more employees and $9 per year for affected establishments with 20 or more employees in designated industries.”

OSHA added that it “believes that the annual benefits, while unquantified, significantly exceed the annual costs” forecast for implementing the rule.

As OSHA has extended the comment period to March 8, fleet owners and other trucking stakeholders can still weigh in on the proposed rule.

Comments on the NPRM, identified by docket number OSHA–2013–0023, or regulatory information number (RIN) 1218–AC49, may be submitted by several methods:

  • Fax submissions that, including attachments, do not exceed 10 pages to the OSHA docket office at (202) 693–1648
  • For mail, hand-delivery, express mail, messenger, or courier service, three copies of the comments and attachments must be submitted to the OSHA Docket Office, Docket Number OSHA–2013– 0023, U.S. Department of Labor, Room N–2625, 200 Constitution Avenue NW., Washington, DC 20210; telephone (202) 693–2350 (OSHA’s TTY number is (877) 889–5627)

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