How new safety rules impact workplace injury reporting

Just one year ago, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) added to its already-expansive citation protocol by as much as 80 percent. Now, under new regulations, employers must be even more conscientious about budgets and safety than ever before.

One of the standouts among the recent rule changes has to do with reporting both employee illnesses and injuries electronically. While employers have long been required to track this information in-house and to report it to them via other methods, the electronic requirement only into effect on January 1.

OSHA's goal in implementing the electronic reporting requirement is aimed at ensuring that information gets documented more quickly. In phasing in this requirement, they expect it to make employers more accountable, which will, in turn, reduce worker injuries.

Another new guideline that also has garnered significant interest is the new anti-retaliation rule. That rule, which was made effective on Dec. 1, 2016, prohibits employees from being retaliated against for freely reporting their illnesses or injuries.

As for ways employers can express their willingness to foster an anti-retaliatory environment, OSHA emphasizes that employers should follow through in posting the obligatory "It's the Law" poster in employee break areas. They emphasize that they should also be more proactive in encouraging workers to report their workplace injuries in the employee handbooks that they're required to read when they're hired.

They also note that employers should make the reporting process clearly understandable for those who want to document their injuries. In doing so, OSHA encourages employers to provide their workers with ample opportunity to acknowledge their injury and report it. They also emphasize that they shouldn't purposefully take actions to discourage employees from electronically reporting them either.

In detailing the new policy, OSHA also defines what would be considered retaliatory action in this case. Any company policy that would allow for disciplinary action to be taken against an employee for reporting an injury or require an employee to be subjected to additional drug testing for it would be seen as unwarranted. Any company policies that offer incentives in exchange for not reporting them would violate new OSHA standards.

If you've been hurt on the job and your employer has either discouraged or blocked you from filing an injury claim, then an Omaha workers' compensation attorney can provide guidance as to legal remedies you can pursue in your case.

Source: Austin Business Journal, "OSHA changes rule on tracking workplace injuries and illnesses," Woody Hill, July 30, 2017

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