OSHA exists for good reason – to ensure the health and safety of employees’ work environments. However, the Act is over 45 years old, which means its specific rules often need revisiting for reevaluation and updating. Recently, three major changes have been brought to light, which may have significant impact on employers. Here’s what you need to know about OSHA changes.
Previously, employers were only required to keep and post annually a log of work-related injuries and illnesses using specific OSHA forms. However, merely posting that information in the workplace, and occasionally furnishing it in the event of an audit, means a lot of insight is being lost.
Enter the new rule. Under the new regulations, employers will be required to submit injury and illness information electronically to OSHA, using OSHA forms 300, 300A and 301. This information will be publicly accessible.
OSHA suggests that the benefits of this rule are significant. The agency believes that public availability should “nudge” employers to implement a greater focus on safety. Furthermore, with this new database of information, the agency can apply more in-depth analytics into incident rates, identifying in real-time which companies should be inspected. Ultimately, this rule change is meant to increase workplace health and safety.
The same rule that implements electronic recordkeeping also addresses the issue of underreporting due to significant employee deterrents. In keeping with the goal of ensuring workplace health and safety, OSHA is concerned about scenarios in which incidents go unreported. As such, they have identified three main actions that they believe to be in violation.
The first violation is mandatory drug testing of an employee after an injury occurs as a result of a workplace accident. Drug testing must be administered only with reasonable cause. Secondly, employee “rate-based” incentive programs that specifically reward no reported injuries are also considered a violation. OSHA believes these types of programs discourage reporting. The final violation is any disciplinary action against employees who violate safety procedures that result in injury or employees who report injuries after a significant period of time has passed since the incident occurred.
Ultimately, OSHA believes that employers are more likely to ensure workplace health and safety when reporting is unimpeded.
Another major change is the 78% increase in fines. OSHA violation penalties have not been increased for more than 25 years, so this change is a reflection of inflation over the years. The fines exist to encourage employers to increase safety measures in the workplace.
The old penalty, of $7,000 per violation, has increased to $12,471 as of August 2, 2016 for any violations occurring after November 2, 2015. For willful or repeated violations, the increase went from $70,000 to $124,709.
Employers in hazardous industries and work environments will likely be significantly impacted by these OSHA changes. While these changes are part of an effort to protect employees and increase worker health and safety, it’s clear that employers must also stay ahead of rule updates in order to ensure compliance and avoid violations.
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