From January 1, 2015 two new rules will come into effect by the U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) that will affect a majority of employers. One rule is associated with recordkeeping and the other rule is linked to reporting injuries to OSHA. For now, a new rule is likely to become effective that will entice employers to make alterations in how they treat workers who encounter on-the-job injuries and illnesses. Recordkeeping Changes: Under OSHA regulations “recordkeeping” denotes finalizing the employers’ injury and illness log such as OSHA 300, 300A, and/or 301. According to the present guidelines, employers with more than ten employees are obliged to keep written paper records and post those records from February 1, through April 30 each year. The January 1, 2015 update will oblige employers to alter recordkeeping in three ways:
- Records need to be maintained and submitted electronically to OSHA.
- Records need to be made available to the general public through the internet.
- Employers obliged to keep records will change from employers with Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) that have a DART (Days Away, Restriction, or Transfer rate) exceeding 2.325 to employers with NAICS codes having a DART of greater than 1.5.
The new rules will now require millions of previously exempted employers to involve in recordkeeping. Reporting Changes: Under OSHA regulations “reporting” denotes an act of notifying OSHA that an injury, illness, or death has occurred. Presently, OSHA obliges employers to report when an employee dies of an occupational injury or illness or when more than three employees are hospitalized due to an unfortunate event. According to the new rules:
- Employers are required to report in 8 hours of an employee’s death.
- Employers need to report the hospitalization of more than 1 employee in 24 hours, if the hospitalization takes place within 24 hours of the incident leading to the hospitalization (subject to certain limited exceptions).
- Employers need to report amputations or eye losses within 24 hours if the amputation or eye loss occurs within 24 hours of the incident.
The new guidelines will help keep a track on workplace related injuries and incidents and help target suspicious employers easily. Unfortunately, there will be a dramatic increase in the number of inspections which will lead to a humongous increase in OSHA’s budget. The new rules will also help OSHA to electronically cross-check the accuracy of employer’s recordkeeping. Whistleblower Coverage for Employees: Previously, OSHA had suggested, in concurrence with the electronic recordkeeping guidelines that employers with more than 250 employees are obliged to submit workplace injury and illness records on a quarterly basis. OSHA reopened the comment period on the rule and incorporated what sums up to a new definition of whistleblower under the OSH Act. If implemented from March 1, 2015, employers will have to alter how they handle employees who report workplace injury and illnesses. Employers under the new guidelines won’t be able to:
- Order drug testing each time an employee reports an injury – unless there is a reason to suspect drug use.
- Mandate that employees report illnesses and injuries within a certain period of time after the injury of illness.
- Oblige employees report injuries and illnesses in-person.
- Fire employees who are injured because they failed to obey the safety rules.
- Penalize employees who report injuries or illnesses or terminating employees who have multiple injuries.
- Impose unclear safety rules such as situational awareness as well as work carefully only after an employee is injured.
- Carry on with repeat offender programs.
Employers who carry on with policies and programs that include the above mentioned activities will possibly subject themselves to whistleblower violations.