Notes from OSHA’s Hearing on Recordkeeping Modernization NPRM

MSDSonline Recap from Public Hearing on OSHA's Recordkeeping Modernization NPRM

In November, OSHA published a Recordkeeping Modernization NPRM, also referred to as the “Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses” proposal, RIN #1218-AC49. The goal of the NPRM is to have establishments covered by OSHA’s Recordkeeping Rule submit their required occupational injury and illness forms (301, 300, and 300A) electronically to OSHA at intervals ranging from quarterly to annually and to make the data accessible to other government agencies, lawmakers, company employees and the public at large.

On Jan. 9-10, OSHA held a public hearing in Washington D.C., to discuss details of the NPRM and address stakeholder concerns. MSDSonline was in attendance and below is our synopsis of the key discussion points from the meeting.

First, let’s lead with a quick overview of the current form disclosure requirements under the Recordkeeping Rule. Currently, covered establishments must simply keep their forms on-hand for five years and furnish them in these five instances:

1) They must post them in a conspicuous location where all employees can review them every year from Feb. 1 – April 30, per section 1904.32 of the rule.

2) They must be made available to an OSHA auditor or other authorized government representative within four hours of being requested, per section 1904.40 of the rule.

3) According to section 1904.41 of the rule, details from the 300A Summary Form must be provided to OSHA or its designee if requested as part of OSHA's annual survey, also referred to as the OSHA Data Initiative (ODI), within 30 calendar days, or by the date stated in the survey form, whichever is later.

4) Within 30 calendar days, data from Forms 301, 300 and 300A must be provided to the Bureau of Labor Statistics or its designee upon request as part of the Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses, per section 1904.42 of the rule.

5) The forms must also be provided to current and former employees or their representatives by the next business day following a request, per section 1904.35 of the rule.

Key Points From the Hearing:

1.    For/Against the NPRM is largely split along labor lines: Those in favor were largely from unions, who supported the proposal for its ability to provide OSHA with better real-time data. Those against the rule were largely from employer and professional organizations, who cited not only the burden on employers as a reason for their dissent, but more so the proposed rule's focus on lagging versus leading indicators, which brings up concerns about the possible witch-hunt against employers resulting from granting the public access to the data.

2.    Lagging vs. Leading Indicators: Many speakers were concerned that the focus on lagging indicators (the incidents themselves) would skew public perception of a company’s safety record, whereas leading indicators (the measures a company has taken to prevent incidents) would provide a better snapshot of a company's efforts for ensuring worker safety.

3.    Personal Data Security: Personal details included in 301 forms would need to be scrubbed before being posted publically. OSHA certifies that it would absolutely do this, but could not describe the process or answer how. Concerns were raised of OSHA having to comb through the narrative sections of each 301 record to make sure that personal details were removed. If the agency received the estimated 900,000 separate 301 forms in a year, that’s at least 3.6 million fields that would have to be scrubbed, not counting the additional fields where personal data could be mistakenly entered.

4.    Underreporting Provision: Many labor unions were concerned that compelling employers to submit data on injuries would increase the underreporting of incidents. Without a provision prohibiting underreporting/incentive programs, they fear this will be a toothless regulation.

OSHA is accepting comments on this seemingly divisive NPRM through March 8. Visit Regulations.gov to learn how to submit your comments electronically, or to view other stakeholder comments and additional information about the proposal.

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