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.
OSHA states that the easiest way employers can meet this obligation is to ensure they have posted the OSHA Job Safety and Health – It’s the Law worker rights poster from April 2015 or later – “in a conspicuous place where workers can see it.” The recent versions of the poster specifically inform workers that they have the right to report injuries and illnesses without facing retaliation, and inform employers that it is illegal to retaliate against an employee for reporting.
- Employers must implement reasonable procedures for reporting injuries and illnesses that do not discourage workers from reporting.
OSHA already requires employers to provide employees a way to report work-related injuries and illnesses “promptly.” The new rule clarifies that reporting procedures must also be “reasonable,” and defines this only as a “policy that does not deter or discourage 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 explicitly states in the new rule that the existing anti-retaliation prohibitions covered under section 11(c) of the OSH Act continue to apply; employers must not discriminate or retaliate against workers who report incidents.
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.