When OSHA launches its recordkeeping National Emphasis Program (NEP) later this year, employers cannot accuse the agency of inadequate warning. Since early March, OSHA officials have signaled the impending NEP. Employers should take time now to review their OSHA recordkeeping logs and practices to prepare for an NEP inspection.
Just last week, OSHA reminded us how seriously it is taking recordkeeping and the perceived underreporting of occupational injuries and illnesses. The Bureau of National Affairs (BNA) reported on remarks by Acting Assistant Secretary of OSHA, Jordan Barab, at the annual American Society of Safety Engineers convention in San Antonio:
Barab said OSHA’s pending recordkeeping National Emphasis Program will scrutinize companies in high-risk industries that post strikingly low accident and injury rates. OSHA inspectors will look not only at a company’s records but also its safety policies, he said. In particular, agency inspectors will look for companies that discourage their employees from reporting workplace accidents, Barab said.
The recordkeeping NEP will involve more than just a standard records review. Employer programs that “discourage” employees from reporting workplace accidents will be targeted by OSHA. Unfortunately, OSHA has not provided additional information on the types of programs it is concerned about. However, OSHA had a provision in the Clinton Administration’s ergonomics standard, which was revoked by Congress and President Bush in 2001, which sought to address a similar concern. OSHA required in that rule that employers not develop policies that discourage the reporting of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). In the preamble to the final rule, OSHA suggested that the following could run afoul of this provision:
- Disciplining employees for reporting injuries, without considering the cause of those injuries;
- Establishing incentive programs that offer rewards to employees or groups of employees based on a low number of reported injuries;
- Implementing programs where manager or supervisor performance reviews or bonuses are tied to the number of reported injuries and illnesses; and
- Instituting drug testing programs, when applied to all workers who report MSDs.
Employers should prepare for an OSHA recordkeeping inspection by taking some time to:
- Review their 300 logs and 301 incident reports for accuracy;
- Ensure their 300 logs reflect information from the 301 incident reports; and
- Compare all their OSHA recordkeeping forms with any workers’ compensation reports and claims.
As important, employers should look at their safety incentive programs and injury and illness reporting procedures for any evidence that these protocols are discouraging employee reports.
Roger Kaplan, a Partner in Jackson Lewis’s Long Island office, contributed to this Post.