Stakeholders divided over making injury/illness data public


Photo: Julian Hoffman

Washington – Stakeholders at a Jan. 9 public meeting in Washington showed a sharp difference of opinion on proposed changes to OSHA’s Recordkeeping Standard.

The proposed rule would require about 480,000 establishments to electronically submit, on a regular basis, injury and illness data – information the law already requires them to keep. That data would then be made public.

Luke George, government affairs manager of the National Safety Council, said during the meeting that the council supports opportunities to improve injury and illness tracking, and the rule has the potential to improve hazard abatement.

However, Oklahoma Department of Labor Commissioner Mark Costello said that by making the data public, the rule would become the “functional equivalent of a scarlet letter” and harm employers’ reputations. Peg Seminario, safety and health director of the AFL-CIO, downplayed Costello’s concerns, pointing out that OSHA and the Mine Safety and Health Administration have collected similar data and made it publicly available for years. Such data would not be used to “name and shame” employers, but instead it would be used to identify and address problems, Seminario said.

Another concern raised during the meeting is the rule’s potential to result in underreporting of injuries. Some stakeholders suggested the rule should explicitly prohibit any programs or practices that discourage employee injury or illness reporting.

OSHA has extended the comment period for the proposed rule to March 8.