Employment LawScene Alert:
New OSHA Anti-Retaliation Provision Requires Employers to Rethink Their Safety-Related Policies

Last week, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) finalized new record-keeping and reporting rules that require certain employers to electronically submit information about workplace injuries and illnesses to OSHA. The electronic reporting requirements of the rule apply only to employers with 250 or more employees and to employers with between 20 and 249 employees in certain “high-risk” industries, such as construction and manufacturing. A full list of the affected industries can be found here . The full rule (which can be found here) goes into effect January 1, 2017, while certain provisions, like the anti-retaliation provision, go into effect August 10, 2016.  Non-personal injury and illness information reported under the rule will be posted on a publicly accessible OSHA website. The new rule does not change the requirement that employers with 10 or more workers in most industries prepare injury reports, compile a log of these incidents, and complete an annual summary of work-related illness and injuries, which OSHA can access during an investigation.

The new rule further requires employers to inform workers of their right to report work-related injuries and illnesses without fear of retaliation and provides additional information on employees’ rights to access workplace injury data. Moreover, OSHA’s new rule prohibits any workplace policy or practice that could discourage employees from reporting workplace injuries or illnesses. Such policies subject to greater scrutiny under OSHA’s new anti-retaliation rule could include post-accident drug testing policies. Employers will have to review their safety-related policies to determine if their policies or practices run afoul of OSHA’s new anti-retaliation rule or otherwise discourage employees from reporting workplace safety incidents. The anti-retaliation provisions apply to all employers.

OSHA’s stated purpose for the additional reporting and public access are to increase workplace transparency and to encourage employers to increase their efforts to prevent work-related injuries and illnesses. However, employers should be cautioned that such information will make it easier for OSHA to target companies with multiple injuries or illnesses for compliance and enforcement actions, despite any precautions that are being taken, as well as open up companies with high rates of illness or injury to increased union organization.

Employers of all sizes and in all industries should continue to strive to achieve workplace safety. They should also immediately review their workplace safety policies to make sure that appropriate anti-retaliation provisions are included.