OSHA Backpedals on Certain Electronic Filing

In August 2016, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released its "electronic reporting rule," which mandated that all OSHA-covered work sites with 250 or more employees, as well as work sites with 20 or more employees in industries considered by OSHA to be high-hazard, begin to submit their annual OSHA Form 300A reports (Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses) electronically.

Since that time, there has been much confusion among employers, largely because of a perceived lack of information on what was required as well as various changes and tweaking of the official requirements. However, the original requirement is still in place, and employers in these categories continue to be required to file their annual 300A summary reports electronically.

But what about the two other key OSHA reports: OSHA Form 300 (Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses) and OSHA Form 301 (Injury and Illness Incident Report)?

There was talk about OSHA requiring that these also be submitted electronically. However, there were many concerns over this, especially that such requirements held the potential to compromise both employee and employer privacy—the former by possibly making individual employee injuries and illnesses publicly accessible, the latter by making the number of employee hours worked in a company available to competitors (providing a glimpse into their workplace operations).

However, these concerns have just been laid to rest. On Jan. 24, 2019, OSHA issued its final rule on the topic.

"To protect worker privacy, the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued a final rule that eliminates the requirement for establishments with 250 or more employees to electronically submit information from OSHA Form 300 (Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses) and OSHA Form 301 (Injury and Illness Incident Report) to OSHA each year. These establishments are still required to electronically submit information from OSHA Form 300A (Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses)."

In explaining its ruling, OSHA noted, "By preventing routine government collection of information that may be quite sensitive, including descriptions of workers' injuries and body parts affected, OSHA is avoiding the risk that such information might be publicly disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). This rule will better protect personally identifiable information or data that could be re-identified with a particular worker by removing the requirement for covered employers to submit their information from Forms 300 and 301."

OSHA added, "The final rule does not alter an employer's duty to maintain OSHA Forms 300 and 301 on-site, and OSHA will continue to obtain these forms as needed through inspections and enforcement actions."

"NECA is in support of this recent action by OSHA that protects worker information and relieves additional burdens on an employer related to these forms being filed electronically," said Wes Wheeler, NECA's director of safety.

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