Proposed rules for online reporting could violate individual privacy of injured workers and create additional burdens for businesses
AUGUSTA, MAINE—Commissioner of Labor Jeanne Paquette announced today that the Maine Department of Labor is submitting public comment opposing the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) proposed rule changes related to the OSHA 300 form. The department’s subject-matter experts have recommended opposing the changes after reviewing the rules and their potential effect on Maine workers and businesses.
The proposed changes would require about 250,000 businesses nationally to submit their workplace injury and illness reports to OSHA electronically, allowing the information to be posted online.
Governor Paul R. LePage supported the decision to oppose these rules. “Posting information online to embarrass workers and employers who have had accidents is the wrong way to encourage workplace safety, especially when it can violate the privacy of an individual who is already suffering from a workplace accident,” he stated. “Maine chooses to be a role model for others by incentivizing workplace safety rather than burdening employers with more regulation, and our track record stands for itself.”
Commissioner Paquette provided background on the department’s position. “Small businesses make up the majority of our employers,” she stated. “These rules would require businesses to submit data about injured workers that OSHA would post online. When there are only a few employees in a company or at a specific location, it can be easy to piece together the information to identify injured workers even though their names are not posted.”
Paquette noted, “The proposal contains no assurances that enough personal information would be scrubbed from the records so that individuals would not be able to be identified. Posting this information online could create a potentially embarrassing or even hostile situation for the injured worker.”
The proposed rules would also change which businesses and industries are required to submit these reports. Under current rules, certain industries are partially or ordinarily exempt from maintaining the OSHA 300 forms. These changes would add an additional regulatory reporting burden for these employers. Individuals or businesses wishing to submit public comment may do so by March 10, 2014, at http://www.regulations.gov or by fax at (202) 693–1648. All submissions must include the docket number (Docket No. OSHA–2013–0023) or the RIN (RIN 1218–AC49). Additional information on the rule and submitting public comment is available at https://www.osha.gov/recordkeeping/proposeddataform.html .
“Opposing these rules does not mean that we are de-emphasizing workplace safety,” stated Commissioner Paquette. “Maine has a strong record on workplace safety and injury reporting. The training programs we provide serve as a national model. Employers can take advantage of the free safety courses taught by the department in Augusta and locations statewide, as well as customized courses taught at an employer’s worksite and online.”
The U.S. Department of Labor has recognized Maine as a leader in teaching injury record-keeping to employers, which increases their reporting accuracy. When injuries do occur, these records provide important data about the types, conditions and frequency of injured workers in specific occupations and industries. This helps the state and businesses identify areas of concern and target training to prevent or avoid injuries.
Maine’s businesses also participate in the national Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP). Maine has more active SHARP worksites, 63 to date, than in all other New England states combined. SHARP companies, and public sector employers in the sister program, “SHAPE”—Safety and Health Award for Public Employers, must undergo a comprehensive audit and meet several safety standards. After awarding the SHARP designation, OSHA exempts the employer from its general scheduled inspection list for two years. This program supports best practices, keeps injury rates low and saves businesses time and money.
Employers interested in learning more about the SHARP designation should contact SafetyWorks! at 1-877-SAFE 345 (1-877-723-3345) or http://www.safetyworksmaine.com . SafetyWorks! provides a trained consultant with industry-specific expertise who will review the facility by appointment. The consultation may include such elements as recognizing safety hazards, sampling for air and noise exposures, recommending ways to reduce or to eliminate hazards, developing or improving a safety program, complying with federal OSHA regulations and identifying training needs.
SafetyWorks! is not OSHA and cannot issue fines or citations to private businesses. While SafetyWorks! helps businesses of any size, priority is given to small businesses. The program trains about 8,000 people and consults at nearly 1,000 worksites in Maine each year.