UNDERSTANDING OSHA’S NEW ELECTRONIC INJURY AND ILLNESS DATA SUBMISSION

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J.R. Moody
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On August 1, 2017, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) launched its Injury Tracking Application (ITA), which allows employers to begin observing compliance with this year’s new electronic reporting requirements. Through the ITA, employers can submit necessary injury and illness records from their 2016 OSHA Form 300A.

WHY IS THIS CHANGE IMPORTANT?

Ultimately, maintaining injury and illness records allows employers and OSHA to identify trends in workplace hazards and target them more accurately when developing safety programs and regulatory provisions. The transition to electronic reporting will eventually lead to free public access to an employer’s injury and illness history. It is OSHA’s belief that this type of disclosure will effectively “nudge” employers to take greater responsibility for workplace safety as they will soon be held publically accountable.

This will certainly lead to improvements in an employer’s bottom line (as there is no downside to improving and prioritizing safety), but will also be valuable information for employers, workers, OSHA, and researchers, in addition to potential clients and job applicants who would like to ensure a safe working environment before making the next move.

Employers: Information compiled in OSHA-required injury records allow employers to identify trends and patterns of occupational injury in the workplace, contributing greatly to their ability to correct hazards and prevent similar injuries from occurring in the future. This is essential for employers to be able to maximize the effectiveness of their safety and health programs.

Workers: Thanks to their Right to Know, workers are able to access injury and illness records during the required five-year record retention period. Using this knowledge, they can have a better understanding of the hazards common in their workplace, leading to increased awareness and personal responsibility. Seeing in writing how certain hazards can lead to devastating injuries, an informed worker is more likely to observe safe work practices and report known hazards.

OSHA: For OSHA, transforming the information provided by injury records into visual representations allows them to investigate trends and direct their standard and regulatory efforts where they’re needed the most. For example, seeing a pattern emerge in a particular industry where machine-related injuries are unusually common tells OSHA that they need to more closely examine how they approach machine guarding regulation.

Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS): The BLS takes the data provided by employer injury records and translates them into national statistics. OSHA, Congress, and safety and health policymakers are then able to use these published statistics to make informed decisions in safety and health legislation. Additionally, both employers and employees can use the statistics as a way to compare their workplace to others within the industry.

Included in the final rule which led to these new reporting requirements are improved anti-retaliation measures. Although it has always been against the law for an employer to retaliate against an employee for exercising their right to report injuries and hazards, before this year OSHA could only take action if a worker filed a complaint within 30 days of the retaliation. Now, OSHA can cite employers for retaliation with or without a worker complaint, or if the employer has some sort of workplace program which discourages reporting. The purpose of these revisions is to protect workers who, after experiencing employer retaliation, cannot speak up out of fear of further retaliation.

Employers can comply with the new anti-retaliation protections by informing workers of their right to report workplace injuries and illnesses without retaliation, and ensuring established reporting procedures in no way deter workers from using that right. The former can easily be accomplished by properly displaying OSHA’s “Job Safety and Health: It’s the Law” poster, which is already a requirement.

WHO NEEDS TO SUBMIT INJURY AND ILLNESS RECORDS, AND WHEN?

The new electronic reporting requirements do not change who is required to maintain injury and illness records, or what injury and illnesses are recordable. The only change is in how those records are submitted.

Employers with 20-249 employees are only required to submit necessary injury and illness records if their establishment falls within an industry which has a historically high rate of incidents. If you must submit records:

  • This year, OSHA Form 300A is due by 12/1/2017
  • In 2018, OSHA Form 300A is due by 7/1/2018
  • Beginning in 2019 and every year thereafter, OSHA Form 300A is due by March 2.

Employers with 250 or more employees:

  • This year, OSHA Form 300A is due by 12/1/2017
  • In 2018, OSHA Forms 300A, 300, and 301 are due by 7/1/2018
  • Beginning in 2019 and every year thereafter, OSHA Forms 300A, 300, and 301 are due by March 2

WHAT DO I NEED TO RECORD?

Again, despite updates to how injury and illness records are submitted, what is considered recordable (and therefor mandatory) remains the same:

  • Any work-related fatality
  • Any work-related injury or illness that results in loss of consciousness, days away from work, restricted work, or transfer to another job
  • Any work-related injury or illness requiring medical treatment beyond first aid
  • Any work-related diagnosed case of cancer, chronic irreversible diseases, fractured or cracked bones or teeth, and punctured eardrums
  • Needlesticks and sharps injuries where the object was contaminated with another person’s blood or other potentially infectious material
  • Circumstances under which an employee is medically removed under the medical surveillance requirements of an OSHA standard
  • If an employee’s hearing test shows the employee has experienced a work-related Standard Threshold Shift (STS) in hearing in one or both ears, and the employee’s total hearing level is 25 decibels or more above audiometric zero in the same ear(s) as the STS
  • Any employee who has been exposed in the workplace to someone with a known case of active tuberculosis, and later tests positive for a tuberculosis infection

OSHA defines the following as first aid:

  • Using a non-prescription medication at nonprescription strength (for medications available in both prescription and non-prescription form, a recommendation by a physician or other licensed health care professional to use a non-prescription medication at prescription strength is considered medical treatment for recordkeeping purposes);
  • Administering tetanus immunizations (other immunizations, such as Hepatitis B vaccine or rabies vaccine, are considered medical treatment); Cleaning, flushing or soaking wounds on the surface of the skin
  • Using wound coverings such as bandages, Band-Aids™, gauze pads, etc.; or using butterfly bandages or Steri-Strips™ (other wound closing devices such as sutures, staples, etc., are considered medical treatment)
  • Using hot or cold therapy
  • Using any non-rigid means of support, such as elastic bandages, wraps, non-rigid back belts, etc. (devices with rigid stays or other systems designed to immobilize parts of the body are considered medical treatment for recordkeeping purposes)
  • Using temporary immobilization devices while transporting an accident victim (e.g., splints, slings, neck collars, back boards, etc.). Drilling of a fingernail or toenail to relieve pressure, or draining fluid from a blister
  • Using eye patches
  • Removing foreign bodies from the eye using only irrigation or a cotton swab
  • Removing splinters or foreign material from areas other than the eye by irrigation, tweezers, cotton swabs or other simple means
  • Using finger guards
  • Using massages (physical therapy or chiropractic treatment are considered medical treatment for recordkeeping purposes)
  • Drinking fluids for relief of heat stress

HOW DO I GO ABOUT SUBMITTING RECORD FORMS?

OSHA’s secure website provides three record data submission options:

  1. Via web form
  2. Via uploaded CSV files for processing single or multiple establishments simultaneously
  3. Via electronic data transmission using an application programming interface (API)

The electronic submission process, regardless of which avenue your establishment takes to achieve this, involves four steps:

  1. Create your establishment (much like creating a user account for other web-based processes)
  2. Inputting summary data from your injury and illness record forms
  3. Officially submitting the data to OSHA
  4. Reviewing the details in your confirmation e-mail to ensure accuracy

You can access OSHA’s Injury Tracking Application to begin the process here. Just remember to prepare ahead and allow yourself enough time to meet the aforementioned deadline.

If you need additional assistance meeting injury and illness recordkeeping requirements, contact one of our safety specialists here.

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