OSHA Looks to Modernize Injury and Illness Data Collection by 2011:

New changes could require electronic submissions of Form 300 and Form 300A from all establishments covered under rule 29 CFR 1904

OSHA held two informal stakeholder meetings on June 3, 2010 in Arlington Heights, Ill., to discuss the modernization of its injury and illness data collection process. The potential changes could have a big impact on the roughly 750,000 employers and 1.5 million establishments covered under OSHA’s recordkeeping rule 29 CFR 1904.

Approximately 40 people observed or took part in the morning discussion that included David Schmidt, director of the Office of Statistical Analysis, Glenn Shor, special assistant to in the Office of the Assistant Secretary, and Miriam Schoenbaum, a statistician also in the Office of Statistical Analysis. The impetus for the meetings was outlined in a document OSHA posted on the Federal Register website.

“OSHA needs to gather information from stakeholders in order to be able to modify its current injury and illness recordkeeping regulation and develop a modernized recordkeeping system in ways that will help OSHA, employers, employees, researchers, and the public prevent workplace injuries and illnesses as well as, supporting President Obama's Open Government Initiative, increase the ability of the public to easily find, download, and use the resulting dataset generated and held by the Federal Government.”

The June 3 meeting centered on the viability of an electronic recordkeeping system and had four key issues on the agenda:

  1. Scope of the data collected
    • What data should be collected?
    • Should an electronic system collect data from every employer under OSHA jurisdiction or be limited to a subset?
  2. Use of the data collected
    • What purposes could the data serve for OSHA and others?
  3. Methods of data collection
    • Should data be collected on a flow basis or periodically?
    • What would be the strengths and limitations of the collected data?
  4. Economic Impacts
    • How can OSHA ensure that small-business employers are able to comply?
    • What tools could be developed to increase employers ability effectively use injury and illness data?

Currently, under rule 29 CFR 1904, and as part of the OSHA Data Initiative (ODI), OSHA annually collects data from approximately 80,000 establishments on injuries and acute illnesses attributable to work-related activities. With the adoption of an electronic system, OSHA could require all 750,000 employers and 1.5 million establishments covered under the recordkeeping rule to submit illness and injury data annually.

Another significant change could be the type of data OSHA collects.

There are three forms employers fill out under rule 29 CFR 1904 - Form 300, Form 301 and Form 300A. Presently, as part of the ODI, employers and establishments only submit data from Form 300A (a general summary of recordable incidents).

According to Schmidt, that could change. “The big idea is to collect all the data off of the 300 log for those under our jurisdiction.” The 300 log (Form 300) is a more detailed report and would substantially increase the amount and quality of information OSHA collects.

Calling it one of Dr. David Michaels’ (OSHA assistant secretary) top three priorities, Schmidt outlined the following timetable for the modernization of the data collecting process:

  • Written comments from stakeholders submitted (postmarked, sent, or received) by June 18, 2010
  • Formal rule making process to begin fall/winter  2010
  • Final rule – 2011

Anyone wanting to participate in the discussion still has time. As noted above, OSHA is still in the information gathering stage and the docket for inquiries into the question of electronic submissions is open until June 18. Written submissions can be submitted at www.regulations.gov.

When asked how the process was going and if anything was missing, Schmidt responded, “We’re missing the small employers.” He understood their inability to come sit at the table, but wanted them to know written submissions to the docket carried considerable weight and would be factored into OSHA’s decisions moving forward.

There are three specific questions OSHA would like small-businesses to answer:

  1. Can small-businesses handle the modernization?
  2. What would the economic impact be?
  3. What value would small businesses would like to get out of the data collection process?

When asked how the collected data would be used, Schmidt replied, “Target inspections…outreach to establishments to offer compliance assistance…and standards development.” Schmidt and others lamented the time lags between when a recordable incident takes place, when the data is collected, and when the information can be put to use – routinely a two to three year process.

A few participants expressed concern that some companies could be penalized for comprehensive reporting under a modernized process while less forthcoming companies were overlooked.  Schmidt countered those concerns by saying OSHA was currently checking into 350 establishments in high risk industries whose numbers of recordable incidents were below the industry average. He added, “We’re going over those records with a fine-tooth comb.”

Whether OSHA will be able to meet the timeline its set for itself remains to be seen; however, the window for participating in this round of information gathering is closing quickly. MSDSonline encourages EH&S professionals to add their voice to the conversation.

If you have questions or are looking for a better way to manage your injury and illness records, contact MSDSonline today at 1.888.362. 2007 for information about Incident Management, the online compliance management application that streamlines OSHA injury and illness recordkeeping processes.