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OSHA Phasing in New Injury Reporting Rules, Starting Now

By Ephrat Livni, Esq. on July 11, 2016 1:03 PM

As an employer, you are obligated to report workplace injuries to federal labor safety agencies. Now the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is hoping to make disclosure easier for workers and their employers with a new set of rules.

The rules outline new injury reporting obligations and provide protection for those who disclose, ensuring that reporting won't result in retaliation. Here's what you need to know.

New Rules

According to JD Supra, the new rules require certain employers to submit injury and illness data electronically to OSHA, and this provision will go into effect on January 1, 2017. The agency will post some of the information it received from businesses and employees on its public access website in the hopes that disclosure will encourage employers to improve workplace safety, inform industry experts, and provide valuable information to workers.

The rules also ensure that employers notify workers of their right to report injury to the agency. Compliance with this rule should be simple enough. Posting OSHA's worker rights poster from April 2015 or later satisfies this obligation, according to the agency.

Anti-Retaliation Provision

There are also provisions to ensure that the reporting process within a business is not prohibitive, ultimately deterring a worker from reporting. Injury and illness reporting policies must not discourage reporting and must be reasonable.

OSHA provided an example of an internal reporting policy that does not qualify as reasonable. For example, if an employee reported work-related neck and shoulder pain a week after symptoms first appeared and was issued a final warning for failing to report his medical condition promptly, that would be unreasonable.

The agency writes, "This policy was not reasonable because it did not allow for reporting within a reasonable time after the employee realized that he or she had suffered a work-related injury," said OSHA, adding, "[t]he final rule will have an important enforcement effect for the minority of employers who do not currently have reasonable reporting procedures."

Punishing Punishers

Employers may also not retaliate against employees who report workplace injuries. OSHA added a provision that strengthens existing regulation on discrimination and adds some bite.

The agency will allow inspectors to cite an employer for retaliation and require abatement even if no retaliation complaint has been filed under section 11(c), an anti-discrimination regulation. The agency considers this new rule "an additional enforcement tool" and reminds employers that it applies to retaliation for workplace injury reporting.

The new rules are being phased in gradually over the next two years, with some obligations already applicable to some employers as of this month. If you've got more than 250 employees, you need to start reporting electronically now and figure out how to ensure your reporting system is compliant soon.

Talk to a Lawyer

If you are concerned about compliance of any kind or have questions about business operations, get guidance. Talk to a lawyer to ensure that you're meeting your obligations.

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