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Shining the safety spotlight, part 1: workplace report proposal

In recent years, our society has been learning hard lessons about what happens when there is too little transparency and not enough disclosure. Sex abuse cases involving priests, teachers and others are a case in point. For years, the problem was that organizations were too inclined to sweep problems under the rug rather than address them in a forthright way.

In a more prosaic but still very important way, there are also disclosure and transparency issues involved in cases of workplace injuries. Federal safety officials believe that better disclosure of workplace accidents and illnesses would shine a safety spotlight that could help improve safety.

In this post, we will discuss the proposal by safety regulators to make it mandatory for large companies to file injury reports in electronic form in order to provide more disclosure for the general public.

The agency spearheading the proposal is the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). 

OSHA made the proposal earlier this month. The agency's head, David Michaels, said it is intended to provide a nudge for employers to be more deliberate about identifying workplace hazards and taking tangible steps to eliminate them.

To be sure, the specifics of the proposal vary according to company size.  For employers whose employee size exceeds 250, quarterly reporting of workplace injuries and illnesses in electronic form would be required.

In certain industries, however, there would also be required electronic reporting on an annual basis for employers with 20 or more employees. The industries to which this requirement would apply are generally those with high incidences of workplace injuries and illnesses.

In part two of this post, we will discuss employer pushback against the proposal.

Source: ABC News, "OSHA Plans to Make Workplace Safety Reports Public," Sam Hanenel (Associated Press), Novl. 7, 2013

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