OSHA Revisiting Recordkeeping Electronic Reporting Requirements
By Betsey Kulakowski, CSHO, COSS – Executive Director
In May of 2016, OSHA’s new Improved Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses final rule was issued. The new standard required certain employers to submit their OSHA 300, 301 and 300A forms electronically each year. However, under the previous administration in 2019, the rule was scaled back to require employers to submit only the Form 300A.
A notice of proposed rulemaking is scheduled to be published in December that would implement the full requirements of the original regulation. If passed, this change will require establishments with 250 or more employees to provide their Form 300, 301 and 300A.
This is the first of many standards to be included in the Department of Labor’s regulatory agenda – the first under the current administration.
So why does OSHA want this information? What’s the benefit? As a recordkeeping aficionado I see the benefits of such a requirement. First of all, though, let’s talk about who it benefits.
#1 – It benefits OSHA. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics already conducts a survey of representative companies, chosen at random. That data is just pure numbers with very little detail. It takes almost two years for the data to become available, even to OSHA. This makes it a trailing indicator of limited value to regulators. All they can really tell is if the employer’s injury and illness rates were above the national average two years prior. So, when OSHA is setting its inspection criteria – to prioritize their efforts and avoid wasting their limited resources – having more current and more detailed information ensures they are sending their inspectors to a facility that needs help and has a more current history of incidents.
#2 – It benefits the employees. If the employer has failed to act or hasn’t significantly addressed safety and health concerns in the workplace, sometimes nothing better than a good old-fashion compliance inspection will help. This helps ensure OSHA is holding those employers accountable for their general duty responsibilities, which are to provide a safe and healthful workplace free from recognized hazards that are causing, or are likely to cause, death or serious physical harm.
#3 – It also benefits the employer – if they’re willing to learn from the process. With few exceptions, employers want to comply with the standards, but sometimes it can be complicated, and employers may not know what to do, so they do nothing. Few understand that one of their responsibilities is to educate themselves on the standards and take advantage of the resources OSHA offers to help them comply, so a friendly visit from everyone’s favorite compliance agency can be a great learning opportunity. Employers who embrace the intent of the inspection may be offered a reduction in any potential fines and might learn about the OSHA Consultation Program and how working with the non-enforcement organization can benefit the company and impact the bottom line.
#4 – It can identify bad actors. We’d like to wear our rose-colored safety glasses and think no employer would ever blatantly want to hurt their employees, or willfully violate a rule meant to protect workers, and I hate to burst your bubble, but there are employers out there who do it every day. I won’t try to justify their thinking or rationalize why anyone would want to act this way, but as a former state regulatory inspector and safety consultant, I’ve run into some employers who needed a good old-fashioned compliance inspection.
If you’ve ever been to any or my recordkeeping classes, you’ve heard me say this – and I’m going to shout it from the roof tops for those of you on the back row – IF YOU DON’T USE YOUR RECORDS TO IMPROVE YOUR SAFETY AND HEALTH MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS, OSHA (OR PEOSH) WILL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
These records are NOT an exercise in futility. Keeping good records on not only injuries and illnesses, but near misses, first aid cases and hazard reports — gives you a beneficial data you can use to identify the strengths and weaknesses of your safety and health management systems. If employees are continuing to get hurt, and hazards continue to be found, you need to act.
Okay, so now that I have your attention, let me anticipate your next question. “Betsey, when is your next recordkeeping class? I want to know more.”
I teach recordkeeping at least once a year, usually in January. You can also sign up to get an alert the next time we schedule a class by visiting our website at www.oksafety.org/training. Find the recordkeeping class you’re interested in (there is a version for private sector and another for public sector) and click on the “Notify Me” button. The website will automatically email you when the next courses is added to the schedule. I’m also happy to help with recordkeeping questions you might have. The best way to reach me with questions is by email (email@example.com). This allows me to research your question and provide you with documentation to any source materials to support the answer.
OSHA will be looking at other regulations in the proposed rule stage, including regulations for derricks in construction, communication towers, haz-com, lock-out/tagout, a tree care standard, silica, welding in confined spaces in construction, PPE in construction and walking-working surfaces.
I continue to monitor OSHA’s regulatory agenda for updates and will bring you more information as it becomes available, especially on the recordkeeping side. You can too. Visit OSHA’s website at www.osha.gov, follow them on social media, and sign up for their newsletter.
About the Author
With 30+ years of experience as a safety professional and a degree in Emergency Management, Betsey Kulakowski is the Executive Director of the Oklahoma Safety Council. Betsey also serves as the co-chair for the OKC Chapter of Women in Safety Excellence (WISE), a special interest group of the American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP).