New OSHA regulations require employers to establish protections for employees reporting work-related injuries.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued its final ruling on modernizing injury data collection in workplaces, requiring employers to meet electronic recordkeeping guidelines for reporting workplace injuries and illnesses and making such records publicly available.

Under the new rule, employers in high-hazard industries will be required to send injury and illness data to OSHA to be posted on the agency's website.

"The final rule prohibits employers from discriminating against employees for reporting injuries or illnesses."

"Our new reporting requirements will 'nudge' employers to prevent worker injuries and illnesses to demonstrate to investors, job seekers, customers and the public that they operate safe and well-managed facilities,"  Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, said in a statement. "Access to injury data will also help OSHA better target our compliance assistance and enforcement resources at establishments where workers are at greatest risk, and enable 'big data' researchers to apply their skills to making workplaces safer."

As Business Insurance reported, this rule affects organizations with 250 or more employees in industries covered by OSHA's existing recordkeeping regulation – meaning those who submit 300, 300A and 301 forms each year. Additionally, the rule includes businesses with 20 to 249 employees in high-risk industries, such as agriculture, forestry, construction and manufacturing.

Information for 2016 must be submitted by July 1, 2017. Information for 2017 must be submitted by July 1, 2018. Beginning in 2019, data will need to be submitted by March 2 each year.

Internal changes
OSHA's new regulation requires employers to implement an employee injury and illness reporting system that meets specific criteria. This includes the following:

  • Creating a way for employees to promptly and accurately report work-related injuries and illnesses
  • Anti-retaliation protections so that employees do not feel discouraged or deterred from reporting injuries or illnesses
  • Informing employees of their right to report work-related injuries and illnesses

The final rule also explicitly prohibits any employers from discharging, punishing or discriminating against employees for reporting injuries or illnesses.

By August 12 of this year, employers will be required to have formal programs in place for informing employees of their right to report injuries and illness in a way that does not discharge or discriminate against employees for reporting.

According to Lexology, risk managers may wish to review these policies before implementation. Certain aspects, including safety incentive programs and post-accident drug testing, could be considered discriminatory actions under the new OSHA ruling.

If drug testing, or the threat of drug testing, is only administered to employees who report injuries or illnesses, it would be considered an action that discourages reporting. Employers are advised to limit post-incident testing to instances in which drug use was likely to have contributed to the accident and can be accurately identified.

Incentive programs, such as those where employees can win a prize if they are not injured over a set time, may also be considered detrimental if they encourage the under-recording of injuries and illnesses. Using incentive programs to impair accurate recordkeeping is also prohibited under the OSHA rule.