WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. — The National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) said on March 21 that it is concerned that an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) notice of proposed rulemaking "does little to achieve its stated goal of reducing injuries, illnesses and fatalities."
In a recently submitted statement, the NGFA asks OSHA to withdraw its proposed rule to track workplace injuries and illnesses. According to the letter, "the current injury-and-illness reporting requirements have worked well and proven themselves as balanced and useful in protecting lives and reducing injury levels."
The proposed rule would require employers to electronically submit to OSHA injury-and- illness information currently contained in forms 300A, 300 and 301. Under the OSHA proposal, each establishment with 250 or more employees would be required to report on a quarterly basis, and establishments with 20 or more employees in certain designated industries would be required to report annually. The agency also would have discretion under the proposal to require any employer to submit more detailed information about specific injuries and illnesses.
In its statement, NGFA outlines the following concerns:
Reliability: As currently proposed, the rule would allow OSHA to obtain and release to the public detailed information regarding specific workplace injuries and illnesses, including the company, location and incident-specific data.
"OSHA under its proposal would provide such data without any meaningful context,” NGFA said. “As a result, the data and information made public may well not be a reliable measure of an employer's safety record or its efforts to promote a safe work environment."
Privacy: The proposed rule would require employers to submit confidential details about the company and information about its employees, which many consider proprietary business information.
"OSHA ignores several court rulings that have found employers have a privacy interest in maintaining the confidentiality of such data and business information, and fails to consider the implications of publishing it," NGFA said.
For example, OSHA states it intends to publish the addresses of certain businesses that produce, store or maintain highly sensitive, hazardous or valuable products or commodities. Depending upon the nature of the business, publicizing locations and number of employees could leave a business vulnerable to threats to security.
No-Fault: The proposed rule abandons OSHA's "no-fault" approach to recording keeping without justification or analysis.
Disincentives: Under existing rules, OSHA encourages employers to record all possible qualifying incidents, and provides that if an incident is later found to be outside the reporting requirements, it can be stricken.
This protection may well have resulted in employers erring on the side of "over-reporting" of injury and illness incidents with the assurance that they could be corrected later, NGFA says. However, the proposed rule potentially would give employers an incentive not to record those incidents, and "paradoxically, the outcome would be less - not more - information on workplace injuries."
Access: Under the proposed rule, OSHA would require all records be submitted electronically. However, OSHA has not tested or verified its assumption that only a small portion of businesses do not have immediate access to computers or the internet. This verification is required under the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996.
Time and cost: NGFA says OSHA has grossly underestimated the costs of compliance, estimating it to be only $183 per year for establishments with 250 or more employees, and only $9 per year for establishments with 20 or more employees in specified industries. However, NGFA says, the agency fails to account for numerous costs associated with the proposed rule, including, but not limited to:
• Possible cost of adopting a new system to accommodate OSHA's filing system; and
• Training for a new system and implementation of electronic systems for businesses only using paper format, which is representative of most grain, feed and processing businesses.