Proceed With Caution

OSHA’s controversial new web portal

Employers are always on alert for changes in OSHA policy. Keeping a business up to scratch with current OSHA requirements, violations, and reporting policies can kill two birds with one stone: ensuring optimal safety in the workplace and keeping management at ease knowing they don’t have to worry about violations. The next step is being prepared for the correct course of action if a serious injury does occur. Means of reporting incidents recently expanded when OSHA launched a new web portal for employers to report fatalities, inpatient hospitalizations, and other severe injuries at the beginning of 2016 – but many are finding that the new option has its negatives.

A humorous perspective on OSHA also highlights the organization's power - and the importance of complying without being compromised.

A humorous perspective on OSHA also highlights the organization’s power – and the importance of complying without being compromised.

Since January 2015, all employers have been required to report to OSHA all work-related inpatient hospitalizations, amputations, and losses of an eye within 24 hours, in addition to the requirement to report fatalities within 8 hours. The web portal opened earlier this month and represents the third way employers can report, in addition to calling the nearest area office or calling the OSHA toll-free number.

Some are advising employers to exercise caution when using this newest method, such as attorney Eric J. Conn, head of the OSHA Practice Group at Conn Maciel Carey in Washington, D.C. Conn describes the portal as having “drawbacks”, citing that it requires more information than a telephone report and that the information is in written form. He notes that investigations have not been completed at the time of filling out the report, which is a concern for employers because this information could be used against them. Conn recommends using the original telephone method, and he isn’t alone.

Although the portal was introduced at the beginning of this year, it had been mentioned well over a year in advance. Many question why it took so long to be launched.

“OSHA’s significant delay in rolling out the portal casts serious doubts on the agency’s ability to implement its data-intensive proposed injury and illness tracking system. On November 8, 2013, OSHA proposed a new record-keeping rule that would require some employers to submit their illness and injury records electronically,” says a report from JD Supra Business Advisor. “These records would be available to the public. Similar to the web portal developed to assist employers in complying with new reporting rule, the proposed system would run on an OSHA-created ‘secure Web site for the data collection.’ OSHA plans to issue the final regulation implementing the new electronic system in March of 2016, and the requirements would likely become effective in 2017,” the report concludes.

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