OSHA will ‘nudge’ workplace safety by posting records online

New rule goes into effect Aug. 16, will disclose injury data on its Website.
By Bob Vavra May 12, 2016

OSHA administrator Dr. David Michaels. Courtesy: OSHAOSHA administrator Dr. David Michaels calls it a "nudge." Others might call it a Scarlet Letter. Either way, OSHA is putting the safety records of manufacturers and other businesses online as a way to call attention to both safe and unsafe workplaces. In a press release May 11, OSHA announced it would require employers in what it called "high-hazard industries" their injury and illness data for posting on the agency Website, www.osha.gov.

"With this new rule, OSHA is applying the insights of behavioral economics to improve workplace safety and prevent injuries and illnesses," OSHA officials said in a press release announcing the new rule, which goes into effect Aug. 16.

Michaels was more specific about the motivation. "Since high injury rates are a sign of poor management, no employer wants to be seen publicly as operating a dangerous workplace," he said in the press release. "Our new reporting requirements will ‘nudge’ employers to prevent worker injuries and illnesses to demonstrate to investors, job seekers, customers and the public that they operate safe and well-managed facilities. "Access to injury data will also help OSHA better target our compliance assistance and enforcement resources at establishments where workers are at greatest risk, and enable ‘big data’ researchers to apply their skills to making workplaces safer," he added. Under the new rule, all establishments with 250 or more employees in industries covered by the record keeping regulation must electronically submit to OSHA injury and illness information from OSHA Forms 300, 300A, and 301. Establishments with 20-249 employees in certain industries must electronically submit information from OSHA Form 300A only.

OSHA officials also are adding a "whistle-blower" provision to the new rule that hopes to ensure accurate reporting by manufacturers. "The final rule also promotes an employee’s right to report injuries and illnesses without fear of retaliation, and clarifies that an employer must have a reasonable procedure for reporting work-related injuries that does not discourage employees from reporting," OSHA officials said in the press release. "This aspect of the rule targets employer programs and policies that, while nominally promoting safety, have the effect of discouraging workers from reporting injuries and, in turn leading to incomplete or inaccurate records of workplace hazards."