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OSHA Proposes New Rule That Could Affect Massachusetts Workplaces

On November 7, OSHA proposed a new rule to improve tracking of workplace injuries and thereby improve workplace safety. The new rule could have a strong positive effect on Massachusetts’ workplaces. The Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health cited the recent release of the Bureau of Labor statistics as a reason for the rule. About 3 million workers were injured at work in 2012. The rule was developed after several stakeholder meetings were held.

Currently there already exists a requirement that certain employers keep records of workplace injuries. However, employers with 10 or less employees or those in industries with reduced hazards (finance and insurance among them) are not required to keep records unless OSHA specifically requires them to do so. The proposed rule won’t affect them.

The proposal requires employers with more than 250 employees and those that are already required to keep injury and illness records to submit the records to OSHA electronically every quarter. This means the employers will have to submit the employee’s name, job title, date of injury, location, description of the injury, a recordkeeping classification and days away from work and other detailed information.

The proposal also requires businesses that are required to keep injury and illness reports or have more than 20 employees to submit on a yearly basis the total number of cases for each recordkeeping classification, total number of days away from work, and total number of injuries and illnesses by type. Businesses in construction, manufacturing, nursing care, and others would be affected.

The proposal also requires all employers that are specifically asked to submit certain information from their records. This notification will come through the mail and other means.

The electronic data requested by all aspects of the proposal will be submitted through a secure website. It can be uploaded directly or through a batch file. An OSHA representative has said that the changes would give better access to employers, employees and the government, which would encourage hazards to be rectified by employers more quickly.

The most controversial aspect of the proposal may be the fact that the electronically submitted data will be posted online at some point, creating an online database that employers and others can search. This would allow OSHA to develop better approaches to ensuring compliance and enforcement by identifying the workplaces where employees are at the most risk. It will also allow the employers to compare their own injury rates with their competitors.

Some businesses are worried about the impact of such a database, but it may produce some much-needed changes to how businesses handle workplace injuries. Ideally, it will be used to identify problem areas more efficiently and rectify problems that we know exist in many workplaces from the number of worker’s compensation claims that are filed every year. The public can submit written comments on the proposal until February 2014. A public meeting will be held on this issue in Washington D.C. in January. The proposed rule will cost an estimated $11.9 million per year.

If you have been seriously injured on the job, an experienced Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney may be able to help you navigate complex workers’ compensation laws. Contact us by calling 800-367-0871 or using our online contact form.

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