The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), as a result of its electronic reporting of injury and illness data requirement, will quadruple the amount of data it collects around workplace safety. But one expert questions how the agency will effectively handle such a large amount of data.
“OSHA is a small-budgeted agency, an incredibly leanly staffed agency. What in the world are they going to do with all this data? I have to believe, not much,” said Eric J. Conn, founding partner of Conn Maciel Carey LLP, a law firm specializing in occupational safety and health law. “They are not going to take the data and use it in studies, or put together programs or compliance assistance materials based on the data, because it is just too voluminous.”
So why is OSHA going through all of this effort?
Conn posited that under the Obama administration, “OSHA’s intent was to collect the data and publicize it to embarrass employers.” He added that the agency has repeatedly stated this intent since the idea of the new reporting requirements was introduced. “It’s not too hard to speculate here.”
Conn made his comments during an EHSQ Community webinar that guided attendees through the application of the rule and the process to electronically submit injury and illness data on OSHA’s Injury Tracking Application. The webinar, full of step-by-step instructions and practical advice from Conn, his colleague Dan Deacon, and Augustine Chan, a safety product manager at Intelex, is available here.
Under the Trump administration and a now Republican-led OSHA, industry can expect changes in the near future.
“They’ve decided they’re going to do something – either rescind it or amend it,” Conn said, adding that OSHA now has its team of economists taking a hard look at the rule.
Conn anticipates that potential revisions to the rule may include a paring down of the amount of data required for submission. This would mean that no matter how big an employer is, they would only have to submit their 300A annual summary data. He added that another potential revision may include a revision to employee count thresholds – mainly the 25-249 employee count for employers falling under OSHA’s High-Hazard Industry list. Increasing the threshold number of employees that triggers the data submission requirement for employers in high-hazard industries would result in only larger companies having to provide information to OSHA. This would decrease the burden on a substantial number of employers.
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