6 questions to help your company prepare for new injury tracking regulations

This past August, OSHA officially launched its Injury Tracking Application (ITA), ending months of delays and uncertainty surrounding the compliance date of OSHA’s “Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses” (aka Electronic Reporting) rule. While the new tool has had its own set of issues—OSHA temporarily suspended user access due to an apparent, but false, data breach—all signs currently indicate the agency plans to move forward with its first submission deadline on December 1, 2017.

With this initial compliance deadline now just months away, those in construction should use this time to better understand how the rule affects them and to familiarize themselves with the new electronic reporting system. Following, we break-down the new requirements to help address any lingering questions or confusion affected business owners may still have.

1. What is the final rule?

The new rule, which took effect January 1, 2017, requires certain employers to electronically submit injury and illness data, to OSHA, that they are already required to record on their onsite OSHA Injury and Illness forms (e.g. Form 300A). Analysis of this data enables OSHA to use its enforcement and compliance assistance resources more efficiently. OSHA’s original plan was to post the data it receives to its website, believing public disclosure would encourage employers to improve workplace safety and provide valuable information to workers, job seekers, customers, researchers and the general public. However, under the new administration, it is uncertain if OSHA will pursue the public disclosure of information as aggressively as it once planned.

2. Who is covered by the rule?

Establishments with 250 or more employees that are currently required to keep OSHA injury and illness records, and establishments with 20-249 employees that are classified in certain industries with historically high rates of occupational injuries and illnesses.

Some OSHA-approved State Plans have not yet adopted the new requirement, so establishments in California, Maryland, Minnesota, South Carolina, Utah, Washington and Wyoming are not currently required to submit their summary data through the ITA. Similarly, state and local government establishments in Illinois, Maine, New Jersey and New York are also not currently required to submit their data through the ITA. Visit the OSHA website to access contact information for each of the State Plans.

3. What does the rule require covered employers to do?

For 2016 reporting, all covered establishments must submit required data from their OSHA 300A forms (Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses) to OSHA via the ITA by December 1, 2017. Next year, covered establishments with 250 or more employees must submit information from their 300A forms as well as their 300 forms (Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses) and 301 form (Injury and Illness Incident Report) through the ITA by July 1, 2018, while covered establishments with between 20 and 249 employees will still only need to submit the 300A information by that date. Beginning in 2019 and every year thereafter, covered establishments will need to submit the information by March 2.

4. How do I submit the data?

The secure website currently offers three options for data submission. The first—and most time-intensive—option enables users to manually enter data into a web form. The second option lets users upload a CSV file to process single or multiple establishments at the same time. The ITA website currently offers full instructions for this upload method, along with a CSV file template and sample file.

The third option allows users of automated recordkeeping systems to transmit data electronically via an application programming interface. For employers with a high number of employees or multiple facilities, this reporting method is the fastest and easiest approach.

While the final rule does not require employers to adopt an electronic system to record occupational injuries and illnesses, EHS management software with the ability to export or transmit data in a standard format that meets OSHA’s specifications can significantly streamline the electronic submission process. A good electronic incident management product makes it easy for employers and employees to more accurately record workplace incidents, near-misses and hazards of all types, and generate regulatory documents, including OSHA forms 300, 300A, 301. The best systems offer location tagging tools for expanded control and visibility of operational risks and compliance requirements on a site-by-site basis, and have already made updates to help users generate properly formatted injury and illness summary reports for quicker electronic submission to the ITA.

OSHA has also stated its intent to provide an interface for entering data from a mobile device, but this functionality is not currently available for the 2017 reporting year.

5. How long will the submission process take?

OSHA estimates that it will take a typical establishment with 20-249 employees that is required to report about 10 minutes to create an account and another 10 minutes to enter the required information from Form 300A. For typical establishments with 250 or more employees, the agency anticipates that it will take the same amount of time to enter the required information from Form 300A, and an additional 12 minutes to enter the required information for each injury or illness recorded on Forms 300 and 301.This is another area where an electronic incident management product can help streamline the submission process by eliminating the need for manual, keyed-in entries.

OSHA’s time estimates are considered optimistic by many industry watchers, who believe the actual submission process will take more time than OSHA allows.

6. Can an employer with multiple facilities make a single submission of the data?

Yes, an employer with more than one facility may submit establishment-specific data for multiple locations. To do this, the employer will have to create one registration and follow the directions provided to submit data for multiple facilities. It’s important to note that the electronic reporting requirements are for data at the establishment level, not the firm level, so the submitted data must be specific for each individual establishment. Note that establishments under state plan jurisdiction must comply with state plan regulations. Visit the OSHA website for more information about the regulations in individual state plans.