One of the goals of OSHA regulations is to create safer workplaces and encourage workers to report potential safety violations. On more than one occasion, OSHA has created laws that protect workers and tie the hands of employers when it comes to reporting issues. With the latest group of reporting laws coming out, employers are indicating that the battles with OSHA are far from over.
The Anti-Retaliation Laws
According to The National Law Review, the new anti-retaliation laws OSHA is recommending are designed to make it easier for employees to report accidents, injuries, and illnesses. OSHA also wants to mandate that all accident data be reported electronically so that the data can be displayed on a website. OSHA claims that making accident data public is the same as shaming a company into complying with safety regulations. But contractors are saying that OSHA’s new website is revealing company information that should not be revealed.
The new anti-retaliation laws have three main components. They are:
- Enhancing the current laws that protect employees who report accidents or illnesses
- Clarifying the laws that are currently on the books regarding procedures employers should use to make it easier to report accidents and illnesses
- Informing employees of their legal right to report OSHA violations and accidents
OSHA has pushed the implementation of the anti-retaliation laws back from August 10, 2016, to November 1, 2016, but the electronic reporting laws go into effect on schedule starting on January 1, 2017.
Why Are Contractors So Angry?
A part of the new OSHA laws that OSHA is not publicizing deals with making it illegal for contractors to drug test employees after an accident. Unless the accident blatantly appears to be the result of drugs or alcohol, a contractor cannot test the employee to see if drugs or alcohol played a role.
Contractors vehemently disagree with this change, as it will make a current standard procedure illegal. OSHA contends that applying drug and alcohol tests to every employee after an accident will prevent employees from reporting accidents as they happen. Contractors insist that they need to know if alcohol or drugs were involved in an accident to take appropriate action.
Contractors also insist that making their accident data public on an OSHA website is a violation of privacy. OSHA states that any personal information for employees and any sensitive data for the contractors will be removed from the records before they are published. But contractors are insisting that releasing this type of data to the public is a violation of privacy acts, and they intend to fight this provision.
Why Is This Move Being Taken?
OSHA says it is doing what it can to make it possible for employees to safely report accidents and illnesses without fear of repercussions from contractors. For example, if a company is having a safety competition with cash prizes, then employees might be discouraged by their supervisors when it comes to reporting accidents or illnesses. OSHA’s goal is to make reporting accidents and illnesses a mandatory part of every workplace, and it feels that the new anti-retaliation laws will help make that goal into a reality.
Contractors remain unconvinced that the new OSHA laws will have positive effects, and some contractors are publicly challenging the laws. The biggest difference employers might notice when these laws go into effect in November is the lack of information when it comes to the role alcohol or drugs played in an accident.
To contractors, it is essential to know when employees are creating an unsafe workplace through the use of substances. To OSHA, it remains important to encourage all employees to report any accidents or illnesses without the fear of retaliation from their employers.