Thanks to my colleague Tavo True-Alcala for his contributions to this post. Tavo is an analyst in our Environmental & Utilities Practice Group.

OSHA recently announced a final rule to improve tracking of workplace injuries and illnesses. Under the new rule, employers will be required to submit injury and illness data to OSHA on an annual basis  for posting on OSHA’s website.

All employers covered under 29 C.F.R. Part 1904, which includes employers with more than 10 employees, are already required to keep a “Log of Workplace-Related Injuries and Illnesses” (OSHA form 300), an “Injury and Illness Incident Report” (OSHA form 301) that details each incident recorded on form 300, and an annual “Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses” (OSHA form 300A). The new rule requires all establishments with more than 250 employees to electronically submit the information from all three forms (300, 300A, and 301), while those with 20-249 employees in certain industries must electronically submit form 300A.

OSHA will publish the injury and illness information on its website (in a manner that protects the privacy of employees). By doing this, OSHA believes employers will be “nudged” towards adopting better safety practices. In addition, companies will be able to use the public data as a benchmarking tool, comparing themselves to peers and competitors. While the rule does not contain additional safety requirements, OSHA’s hope is that posting the information will have the effect of improving health and safety practices.

OSHA also plans to use the injury and illness data to evaluate safety issues impacting specific industries. OSHA will assess the success of safety programs and initiatives by comparing the injury and illness rates of establishments that have implemented those programs and initiatives with those that have not.

The final rule sets a staggered compliance schedule intended to ease employers into these new requirements. Establishments of over 250 employees will be required to submit their form 300A data from 2016 by July 1, 2017, information from all three 2017 forms by July 1, 2018, and subsequently submit information from all forms by March 2, starting in 2019. Establishments of 20-249 employees have identical submission dates, but are only required to submit the 300A information.

In addition to the submission requirements, the final rule also encourages the reporting of workplace injuries to employers. Under the new rule, employers are required to inform employees of their right to report workplace injuries and illnesses without facing any retaliation, provide a reasonable method for reporting, and prohibit retaliation against employees for reporting such incidents. These provisions become effective on August 10, 2016.

The final rule is also intended to encourage more employees to access records maintained by their employers. These records have always been available, but they had to be requested from employers, which may have discouraged employees from asking for fear of negative consequences. With the information published and available online, OSHA anticipates more workers will view these records and help build a stronger culture and expectation of safety in the workplace.