In the last months of 2016, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued several new regulations that were set to go into effect starting January 2017. One of the major regulations that went into effect on January 1st was the Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses. The rule comprises several components and is has been introduced in order to protect workers from retaliation when reporting an injury on the job.

Here are five things you need to know about the new OSHA 2017 reporting mandate.

1. Why is OSHA issuing this rule? What is its objective?

The ultimate objective of this new rule is to improve workplace safety. Employers will be required to submit their injury reports electronically to OSHA, who will, in turn, post the data on a publicly accessible website. This data will give OSHA the opportunity to use its enforcement and compliance assistance resources more efficiently (find out what are the Top 10 OSHA Safety Violations You May Have Committed Last Year).

Employers are also prohibited from retaliating against employees for reporting an injury.

2. What are the requirements?

Electronic submission requirement:

Employers in certain industries are required to electronically submit their injury and illness data to OSHA. This is the same data they are already obligated to keep under the existing OSHA regulations.

Worker’s rights requirements:

OSHA is concerned that workplace injuries are illnesses are systematically under-reported. According to the Office of the Federal Register, the OSHA rule intends to increase the rate of reporting by:

  • Updating the requirements regarding the way employers instruct their employees to report work-related injuries and illnesses
  • Requiring that employers inform their employees of their right to report work-related injuries and illnesses free from retaliation
  • Clarifying the existing implicit requirement that an employer's procedure for reporting work-related injuries and illnesses must be reasonable and not deter or discourage reporting (see Your Incentives Are Compromising Safety Culture for a discussion of initiatives that inadvertently discourage reporting)
  • Incorporating the existing statutory prohibition on retaliating against employees for reporting work-related injuries or illnesses
  • Clarifying the rights of employees and their representatives to access injury and illness records

3. What are the deadlines?

The new rules will be implemented in three phases and it is estimated that, by the end of implementation, approximately 400,000 workplaces in the United States will be required to submit their workplace injury and illness reports electronically to OSHA.

The deadline for implementation is as follows:

  • By June 1st, 2017, all employers with more than 250 employees will have to submit OSHA 300A (Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses) every year
  • By June 1st, 2018, all employers with more than 250 employees will have to submit annual detailed documentation—OSHA 300 (Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses) and OSHA 301 (Injury and Illness Incident Reports)—of every workplace injury and illness they experienced in the last year, along with their 300As
  • By March 2nd, 2019, every employer with 20 to 250 employees in a “hazardous” industry will have to submit their 300A forms every year (click here to see a list of these hazardous industries)

4. Who is affected?

Companies with more than 250 employees are required to report serious injuries and electronically submit their OSHA forms 300, 300A, and 301 every year.

Small business in hazardous industries that employs 20 to 249 workers will have to report serious injuries and submit their OSHA form 300A every year.

If your business does not meet any of the above, you will not be required to submit injury and illness data to OSHA. You will, however, need to have a reporting system in place that allows you to promptly and accurately report any work-related injuries and illnesses.

5. How can a software management system approach help?

Injury and illness reporting software gives employers the ability to submit their OSHA 300A, 300, and 301 forms in just a few short clicks. Digital record keeping also has additional benefits, including:

  • Minimizing the cost of storing records for extended periods of time
  • Eliminating the need to maintain separate files (electronic indexing creates different levels of documents)
  • Electronic security
  • Providing a back-up system, ensuring that the records don't get lost or destroyed

Digital record keeping will also help ensure audit preparedness with easy retrieval of targeted documents (see 5 Reasons to Go Paperless with Your Workplace Health and Safety for a related discussion).

More importantly, not only will software automate injury and illness reporting, but it will also help employers prevent the costly incidents that get OSHA’s attention in the first place. Compliance is ensured through the process management best practices entrenched in software, including:

  • The standardization of data record keeping
  • Task management
  • Escalating notifications

The implementation of OSHA’s final rule is an exciting time for technology and innovation in the health and safety field. Data aggregation can provide safety professionals and company leaders with deeper insights into the root causes of work-related injuries and illnesses. By aggregating data, organizations can devise more effective safety strategies and higher quality control measures, thereby reducing accident rates and compensation costs.