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OSHA may implement new workplace injury reporting rules

There are about 8 million businesses across the country. It's well-known in Colorado and nationwide that OSHA, the federal agency responsible for making and enforcing safety regulations nationally is strapped for resources, under-funded and unable to investigate safety compliance in all of those businesses. With Congress not about to increase funding for worker safety anytime soon, OSHA has come up with a clever and seemingly promising tool to increase safety compliance. It proposes that all large employers and some smaller ones in known hazardous industries file electronic reports with OSHA containing workplace injury details for each quarterly period.

These reports will be cleansed of personal information and published for statistical importance by OSHA on its website. Federal enforcement officials believe that this practice will pressure those companies with obvious compliance problems to step up their safety enforcement procedures more rapidly and effectively. The public will have access to the information and will be able to pick out trends where certain companies are experiencing safety problems and higher rates of on-the-job injury and death.

Many safety-oriented organizations have long complained about the arguably puny fines that OSHA imposes on companies for safety violations, even violations that result in workplace injury and death. The complaint is that these don't deter safety compliance. However, business interests have already signaled their expected opposition to these changes. A spokesman for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce expressed concern that such reports and statistics will be misconstrued and will allow for conclusions of lack of safety where other causes may be applicable.

Under the procedure for regulatory changes applicable to a federal agency such as OSHA, individuals or organizations may comment on the proposed new regulations over a time period of 90 days. Residents and businesses in Colorado are bound by the 90-day window. OSHA will then hold a hearing where the public can further present its concerns and comments soon after the 90-day period ends. For 2012, there were over 4,000 workplace deaths and over three million incidents of workplace injury reported to OSHA. This is a fact that makes it imperative for the agency to find strong new ways to encourage companies to take safety more seriously.

Source: ABC News, OSHA Plans to Make Workplace Safety Reports Public, Sam Hananel, Nov. 6, 2013

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