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OSHA changes electronic recordkeeping requirements to protect worker privacy

January 30th, 2019 by Dakota Software Staff

OSHA changes electronic recordkeeping requirements to protect worker privacy

Citing concerns over worker privacy, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued a final rule that no longer requires establishments with 250 or more employees to electronically submit information from OSHA Forms 300 and 301 each year.

Under the new regulations, employers will only be responsible for submitting the annual summary of injuries and illnesses documented in Form 300A. The alterations to the Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses final rule were published in the Federal Register on Jan. 25, 2019, and will become effective on Feb. 25, 2019.

The final rule makes clear that employer's still have a duty to maintain OSHA Forms 300 and 301 on-site, and that the agency will continue to obtain these forms if necessary via inspections and enforcement actions.

The agency positioned its decision as a necessary measure for ensuring that workers do not have sensitive details of their personal health somehow made public.

Employee privacy protection cited by OSHA, disputed by AFL-CIO

"By preventing routine government collection of information that may be quite sensitive, including descriptions of workers' injuries and body parts affected, OSHA is avoiding the risk that such information might be publicly disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act," OSHA stated in a press release. "This rule will better protect personally identifiable information or data that could be re-identified with a particular worker by removing the requirement for covered employers to submit their information from Forms 300 and 301."

Still, some high profile critics of the changes have voiced skepticism about the easing of regulations, as well as the stated concern over worker privacy.

In a statement, AFL-CIO Director Peg Seminario said the new rule "allows employers to hide their injury records and keep workers, the public and OSHA in the dark about dangerous conditions in American workplaces," according to Safety and Health Magazine.

The AFL-CIO says the new rule will allow employers to hide their injury records

"This backward action flies in the face of recommendations from the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine and the public health community strongly endorsing the collection and use of this injury data for prevention," Seminario added.

OSHA is also altering the recordkeeping regulation to require covered employers to electronically submit their Employer Identification Number along with their information from Form 300A, which the agency says will make the data more useful for OSHA and BLS, while simultaneously reducing duplicative reporting burdens on employers moving forward.

Beginning this year, the deadline for 2018 Form 300A moves to March 2, 2019. Collection of Calendar Year 2018 information began on Jan. 2, 2019.

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