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Update OSHA Reporting Procedures Now! OSHA Final Rule on Electronic Submission of Workplace Injury and Illness Reports Takes Effect January 1, 2017

October 5, 2016

By Amie Carmack

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s long-awaited final rule on electronic submission of workplace injury and illness reports takes effect on January 1, 2017 and will be phased in over two years.

The new rule requires that establishments with at least 250 employees submit electronic copies of all of their illness reports, logs and summaries of work-related injuries and illnesses (OSHA forms 301, 300 and 300A) to OSHA (or its designee) annually, or whenever requested by OSHA. Employers are required to redact from the reports employee’s names and personally identifying health information.

Many smaller establishments will also have to electronically submit certain reports. Establishments in “designated industries,” who have at least 20 but fewer than 250 employees, must electronically submit OSHA form 300A (redacted as described above) on an annual basis. Since, the list of “designated industries” includes a majority of U.S. industries, employers with 20 more more employees in any single establishment need to take note of these new reporting requirements.

Counting Employees

Full time, part-time, seasonal and temporary employees are all counted in determining whether an establishment is covered by the rule, and the establishment must comply with the rule if it had the requisite number of employees at any time during the calendar year.

Phase in of Reporting Requirements

By July 1, 2017, establishments with 250 or more employees and establishments in designated industries with at least 20 but fewer than 250 employees must electronically submit the annual summary of work-related illnesses, Form 300A, for the year 2016. By July 1, 2018, establishments with 250 or more employees must submit copies of all three types of reports to OSHA, and establishments with at least 20 but fewer than 250 employees  must submit electronic copies of the annual summary, Form 301A. Beginning in 2019, the required reports must be electronically submitted to OSHA by March 2 of the year following the relevant calendar year.

How Submission Will Work

OSHA has stated that it will provide a secure website that offers three options for data submission: (1) manually enter data into a web form; (2) upload a CSV file to process single or multiple establishments at the same time; or (3) users of automated recordkeeping systems will have the ability to transmit data electronically via an API (application programming interface). OSHA expects the secure filing site to go live in February 2017.

In addition to the above electronic filing requirements, the new rule codifies OSHA’s existing requirement that employers establish reasonable procedures for employees to report work-related injuries or illnesses and not “deter or discourage employees from reporting.” The rule also reiterates OSHA’s existing requirement that employers inform employees of their right to report and that employers are prohibited from retaliating against them for reporting work-related injuries or illnesses, which can be satisfied by posting the already-required OSHA workplace poster. Enforcement of these provisions is set to begin November 1, 2016.

OSHA made this statement about its vision for the new rule:

Analysis of this data will enable OSHA to use its enforcement and compliance assistance resources more efficiently. Some of the data will also be posted to the OSHA website. OSHA believes that public disclosure will encourage employers to improve workplace safety and provide valuable information to workers, job seekers, customers, researchers and the general public.

It is clear that OSHA is angling for an uptick in reported safety violations and retaliation lawsuits as a result of the new rule. So, in addition to preparing to comply with the new electronic filing requirements, now would be a good time to make sure your safety procedures are comprehensive, consistently followed and up to date; that your reporting procedures are effective and easy for employees to access and use; and, that you have the OSHA poster displayed in a place where it will be seen by all employees.