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Amid legal dispute, OSHA delays electronic record-submission requirement

Hospital Safety Insider, May 25, 2017

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Nearly half a million employers nationwide are affected by an OSHA requirement that they electronically file summaries of their illness-and-injury logs with OSHA by July 1. Amid legal challenges, however, the deadline has been postponed indefinitely.

An update posted recently to OSHA’s website says the administration is not currently accepting the Form 300A submissions online, and a spokesperson says an announcement with more information should be coming shortly. Industry stakeholders and public interest groups, meanwhile, disagree both on whether this delay is a positive sign and whether it is terribly significant.

“While the reporting change is certainly a big deal, it is not necessarily a surprise nor a big deal that the deadline has been delayed,” says Dan Scungio, MT(ASCP), SLS, lab safety officer for Sentara Healthcare. Scungio noted that OSHA has given employers additional time in the past to bring their operations into compliance with new regulations, following pushback.

Others contend that OSHA is caving to business interests, shirking its responsibility to protect workers. The left-leaning Economic Policy Institute (EPI) said the delay is one of multiple examples demonstrating the Trump administration’s “hostility toward transparency and lack of concern for worker safety.”

The EPI statement cited recent actions on rules governing silica and beryllium by the U.S. Department of Labor as similar examples of a pro-business stance purportedly undermining Trump’s pro-worker campaign messaging.

Lawsuits challenging the legality of OSHA’s final electronic recordkeeping rule are pending in federal courts in Oklahoma and Texas. A judge overseeing one of the cases set a deadline last month that indicated he would not rule before the July 1 compliance date, Bloomberg reported.

Plaintiffs in those suits were among a number of associations that hand-delivered a letter earlier this month to Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta’s office, asking that the rule be administratively delayed and that the rulemaking process be revisited.

“Electronic submission and public posting of the Form 300A, as OSHA has committed to doing, will divulge employers’ confidential business information,” the letter states. It argues that the rule was passed during former President Barack Obama’s final year in office, exceeds OSHA’s statutory authority, and is subject to a memo signed on Inauguration Day to freeze regulations pending review.

The rule applies to establishments with 250 or more employees and establishments with 20-249 employees in certain high-risk industries, including ambulatory healthcare services, general medical and surgical hospitals, and other healthcare settings. It requires employers to upload the injury data they are already required to collect, with the stated intention being for some of the data to be released publicly.

“Behavioral economics tells us that making injury information publicly available will ‘nudge’ employers to focus on safety,” the OSHA website explains. “And, as we have seen in many examples, more attention to safety will save the lives and limbs of many workers, and will ultimately help the employer’s bottom line as well.”

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