The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released new rules that now require employers to collect data on workplace injuries and hazards and release that information to the government and public. The purpose of the rule is to modernize data collection and better inform the public about workplace hazards. The slew of new data should also help the government further refine workplace safety regulations.
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The Old Rule
OSHA has always required employers to keep a record of illnesses and injuries and submit it to the government. This information is compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which releases the information as general industry trends.
However, no data on individual employers was ever retained. The BLS only utilized the data to discuss general industry trends, not to identify specific companies.
The New Rule
Under the new rule, companies will now furnish data, once only reserved for the BLS, to OSHA. OSHA may then use the data to draft new rules and update old ones to improve worker safety. The rule applies to all companies that employ 20 or more people in industries that are required to keep workplace safety records.
Furthermore, employers are required to make the data available to the public. Under the new rules, for the first time, workers can check the safety record of their prospective employers. More information is intended to encourage companies to improve safety in order to remain competitive and attract new talent.
Additionally, the new rule shields employees who report workplace illnesses and injuries. It targets a practice used by employers to discourage workers from reporting injuries by tying them to a safety procedure. Instead, companies must design new policies that do not discourage employees from reporting safety incidents.
Uses for the New Data
OSHA plans to compile the largest publicly available data sets on workplace illnesses and injuries. The data sets will be open to researchers all over the world to advance scientific study in the causes of accidents further, promulgate new safety procedures, and evaluate the effectiveness of workplace illness and injury prevention programs.
Moreover, that additional information will improve worker safety through the free market. Currently, employers are not required to report their safety record, which prevents prospective employees from making fully informed decisions. These new reporting requirements will enable prospective employees to make better-informed decisions and compel companies to improve their safety procedures.