The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has announced that there will be changes to the way
that workplace accidents are reported starting on December 1, 2016. OSHA is attempting to get a more accurate picture of workplace accidents by making it easier for workers to report worker safety issues, and by improving the transparency of the accident reporting process.
Employers are not excited by these new OSHA laws, but there has already been public debate on the issues and these new changes will go into effect as planned. The first set of changes will take place on December 1, 2016, and the second set of new worker safety regulations will become law on January 1, 2017.
Workplace Accident Reporting Changes Taking Effect
The rule that takes effect on December 1, 2016, requires employers to simplify the accident reporting process and put the process in writing in a format that workers can easily understand. The rule also states that employers must remove any duplicate or unnecessarily difficult reporting processes that have, in the past, prevented workers from reporting workplace accidents.
Another provision of the new law requires that employers hold regular trainings on reporting accidents, and make the information regarding accident reporting readily available to workers. Employers are also going to be required to alert employees to any changes in the accident reporting system prior to those changes taking effect.
The new rule states that employers can only conduct post-accident drug tests if there is a reasonable suspicion that drug use played a part in creating the accident. Most employers automatically do drug tests after a workplace accident to determine if workers are violating company drug policies. But now OSHA will not allow those types of tests unless the company can prove that there was a viable reason for suspecting that drugs were involved.
Employers Are Not Onboard With The Changes
Employers are unhappy about this rule for two primary reasons. The first is that it is not always obvious when drugs have been involved in a workplace accident and this new provision does not allow employers to properly protect workers from those who take drugs while working. The other issue is that OSHA has yet to clarify what should be considered a reasonable suspicion that drugs were involved.
Finally, the new rule states that OSHA will severely fine any company that attempts to intimidate employees into not reporting workplace accidents. For example, if there is a safety bonus contest going on and a worker gets hurt, that worker’s manager may dissuade the worker from reporting the accident so that the department can stay in the hunt for the bonus. While OSHA has not indicated how it will determine when these situations take place, it has said that the punishments for employers who engage in this kind of activity will be strong.
Electronic Record Keeping
By January 1, 2017, companies with 250 or more employees or organizations with 20 to 249 employees involved in hazardous industries must submit an annual report outlining all of the accidents from the year. Not only does OSHA want all accidents reported electronically, but OSHA is also reserving the right to publish each company’s accident history for public access.
Companies are upset about this new rule because it could open them up to unnecessary insurance audits, and it could also initiate local safety investigations. Companies are also concerned that public access to accident reports could play a role in the decision-making process for top employment candidates in each industry.
Why Are The Changes Being Made?
What is the point of these new OSHA laws? According to OSHA, there are two primary reasons why these new laws regarding workplace accidents are going into effect. The first reason is that OSHA is convinced that employees are being denied the right to report accidents by employers who have a lot to gain from fabricated safety records. In any industry, a safe business is a business that is paying less for insurance and other costs of doing business. OSHA wants to improve worker safety by allowing injured workers to report accidents and get the medical assistance they need.
The other reason for these changes is that OSHA feels that forcing companies to report all accidents and having those accidents published for public consumption will inspire companies to focus more on safety. Essentially, OSHA is trying to shame corporate America into caring more about its workers and making every workplace safer.
Since the public discussion process on both of these new OSHA laws is already over, the laws will go into effect on their respective dates. Many corporate lobbyist groups are attempting to challenge the laws in court, but that is not going to stop these laws from taking effect by the beginning of 2017.