Part of OSHA’s final rule to improve tracking of workplace injuries and illnesses includes new anti-retaliation provisions to strengthen protection for employees who report incidents. OSHA recently delayed enforcement of these new requirements from August 10 to November 1 of this year “to conduct additional outreach and provide educational materials and guidance.” The revised deadline gives employers a bit of extra time to prepare, but with less than three months until enforcement begins, it’s important to take steps for compliance now. Read on for a summary of what you need to know.
How do the requirements under the new rule differ from anti-retaliation requirements already in place?
Section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act already prohibits employers from “discharging or otherwise discriminating against an employee who reports a fatality, injury, or illness” – but OSHA may only act if an employee files a complaint with the Agency within 30 days of the retaliation. The new rule allows OSHA to cite an employer for retaliation even if an employee did not file a complaint. It also clarifies that employers may not have programs in place that deter or discourage employees from reporting incidents.
According to the Agency, “This new authority is important because it gives OSHA the ability to protect workers who have been subject to retaliation, even when they cannot speak up for themselves.”
How do the new provisions affect employer responsibilities?
OSHA expects employers’ anti-retaliation programs to meet the following requirements by November 1, 2016.
- Employers must inform workers about their right to report work-related injuries and illnesses without the threat of retaliation.
- Employers must implement reasonable procedures for reporting injuries and illnesses that do not discourage workers from reporting.
For example, OSHA may consider an employer’s reporting policy unreasonable if it is too rigid by requiring employees to report incidents immediately or face discipline. OSHA points out that employees don’t always know immediately if they have suffered an injury, so might choose never to report it in order to avoid negative consequences.
- Employers are prohibited from discriminating against employees for reporting work-related injuries and illnesses, as already imposed under the OSH Act.
OSHA also specifically addresses employer drug testing procedures and incentive programs, and how both may be considered retaliatory in certain cases. For more on that, see our separate blog post.
Additional requirements of the new rule
The anti-retaliation provisions are only part of what's required under the new rule – it also states that covered businesses must electronically submit establishment-specific injury and illness data starting in 2017. See our overview blog post for more information on this portion of the rule.
As you take steps to stay in compliance, remember that VelocityEHS offers tools that can help with our suite of solutions that includes Incident Management, Audit & Inspection, Safety Meetings, On-Demand Training, and more. For more information, visit EHS.com or call us at 1.888.362.2007.