By Mukti Patel
Looking for a new job in what OSHA defines as a hazardous industry?
Are you an investor looking into the potential liability facing a company you are considering investing in?
Are you an employer just itching to let the world see into your window and watch how your business is conducted?
OSHA just announced new regulations today giving the public unprecedented access to workplace injury data. Ah, transparency!
In a controversial move, OSHA announced that beginning in July 2017, employers in hazardous industries will be required to electronically report their workplace injury statistics. This information, in turn, will be made available publicly on a website.
In addition, the new regulations prevent employers from retaliating against employees that report workplace injuries and require employers to adopt procedures that encourage injury reporting to ensure that the data collected is accurate.
While many criticize the regulation as seeking to shame employers into compliance, OSHA and labor advocates hope the regulations will increase transparency about workplace injuries to encourage employers to place more emphasis on maintaining safe workplaces for their employees. Likening it to posting whether a kitchen is sanitary at restaurants which then leads to safer food, OSHA believes that publicly posting workplace injury data will lead to safer working conditions.
However, beware! This increased transparency poses potential pitfalls for employers.
For example, potential investors or purchasers of a company can now review workplace injury data that is publicly available to assess the potentially liabilities facing the company. In addition, poor workplace injury data can indicate a level of mismanagement of the company that may make potential investors or buyers shy away.
Poor workplace injury statistics can also cause a company to lose out on the best employees available as employees can review this data in deciding where they will work.
These pitfalls may be even more grave as they may not paint the most accurate picture.
For example, many times workplace injuries are not due to the lack of conscientiousness by the employer but rather result from employees not following workplace safety protocols that have been instituted. While the fact that an injury occurred will be reported, the fact that it resulted from the employee ignoring the safety precautions would not be taken into account.
Takeaway for employers
1) confirm that you are in compliance with all applicable OSHA safety regulations for your industry and that you have the appropriate safety precautions in place;
2) be diligent in ensuring that your employees are following all safety precautions to prevent injuries; and
3) revisit your injury reporting and handling protocols to ensure that they conform to the new requirements.
As always, an OSHA expert is key, because this is pretty much a niche area of law.
By Mukti Patel