The National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association (NLBMDA) recently urged the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) to withdraw its proposed Improved Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses. The rule would require employers to report injury and illness data more often, submit reports in new electronic formats and allow the agency to release the raw data to the general public. NLBMDA questioned the legal authority under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) to issue such a regulation that would publicly release the injury and illness reports and warned of the potential unintended consequences.

The proposed rule would require companies with more than 250 employees to electronically submit the records on a quarterly basis to OSHA. OSHA also is proposing that establishments with 20 or more employees, in certain industries with high injury and illness rates (including lumber and building materials dealers), be required to submit electronically their summary of work-related injuries and illnesses to OSHA once a year. OSHA plans eventually to post the data online.

“The release of injury and illness reports could lead to mis-characterizations about an employer’s safety record. OSHA is proposing to release this information without context or clarifications about each incident. This creates the opportunity for, and will likely result in, misuse of the information. This would punish good actors and reward bad actors by creating the incorrect presumption that employers with several reports operate with hazardous work conditions and those with few or no records are workplaces with very safe conditions,” says Michael O’Brien, NLBMDA president and CEO. “The opposite is likely to be true because employers that keep meticulous records and diligently report to OSHA are more likely to closely monitor safety conditions and quickly correct any issues that may arise at the workplace than those that fail to report.”

NLBMDA says it recognizes the need for adequate levels of transparency and accountability in reporting and record-keeping, where such reporting and record-keeping requirements are justified. The association says it will continue its efforts to improve workplace safety through education, training and communication.

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