Small OSHA changes could have big consequences

Every injury is unique, with costs that go far beyond the economic burden of lost work and medical expenses. While the pain and suffering of accident survivors are significant and deserve compensation, the economic losses are considerable in and of themselves. 

From minor workplace injuries to tragic fatalities, OSHA requires that companies keep track of every incident that occurs. Up until recently, many large employers and some smaller, high-risk organizations had the responsibility to submit detailed and regular reports electronically to OSHA.

As reported in Safety and Health Magazine, the administration recently issued a final rule that would limit the responsibility of companies in terms of accident record keeping. Instead of detailed and case-specific reports, the new rule requires only an annual submission with a summary of illnesses and injuries.

The motivation behind the rule is unclear. There is some mention of protecting worker privacy, but the new rule seems to give the most benefit to employers that have many worker accidents. The change would reduce the necessity to file complex reports, a cost that employers themselves should reduce by investing in safer workplaces. The National Safety Council estimates that a fatal injury may cost the nation well over a million dollars in direct losses alone. This is a cost that unethical and unsafe employers attempt to foist upon taxpayers — a cynical shift of blame away from the people who have the power to prevent these injuries. 

The National Safety Council reports these facts and OSHA enforces rules, but they are only as powerful as the government allows them to be. Hopefully, the attorneys bringing suit against this new rule will find support so that we may continue to have a just system for workers who stand up to their employers.

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