osha rulesI don’t usually write about OSHA rules. Some would argue that OSHA knowledge is outside of HR’s expertise. I don’t disagree but this new update is major and all employers and their HR folks should be at least aware of its implications. So here it is…..

All Employers Pay Attention to This
In May, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) published a final rule regarding reporting injuries and illnesses in the workplace and protecting employees who make those reports. With increased penalties and new regulations less than a month away, you need to review your workplace safety policies IMMEDIATELY.

Here is what you need to know:

Right to Report
Starting November 1, all employers, regardless of size, must inform employees of their right to report work-related injuries and illnesses free from retaliation. The easiest way to communicate with employees is to display the OSHA poster created for this purpose.

Incentive programs
OSHA now considers unlawful incentive programs that eliminate a group safety bonus if one employee in the group gets injured. However, rewarding employees for correctly following legitimate safety rules or to promote participation in safety trainings will likely pass muster. Note, OSHA may object to policies that require an employee to report an injury or illness immediately. Employees should be allowed a reasonable amount of time to notify the employer of an injury or illness.

Action Step for Employers
Review your safety incentive program if you have one to ensure that they don’t unintentionally hinder the reporting of injuries and illnesses.

Post-injury drug testing
OSHA now prohibits mandatory post-accident drug testing. Post-incident testing should be limited to situations where employee drug use is likely to have contributed to the incident. Also, make sure the drug test used can accurately identify impairment caused by drug use. Check with your drug testing facility or provider of testing kits.

For example, drug testing for employees who report an injury caused by a lack of machine guard or tool malfunction is prohibited. However, post-incident drug testing is permitted if it is required by state law, such as a workers’ compensation requirement.

Action Step for Employers
Amend your drug testing policy to require testing only in situations in which the drug or alcohol use is likely to have contributed to the accident or injury and when the test can accurately identify the impairment caused by the drug or alcohol use. Employers should also consider whether any federal or state laws require post-incident drug testing.

New Reporting Requirements
Organizations with 20-249 employees in agriculture, utilities, construction, manufacturing, department stores, and nursing homes must submit summary information onto an OSHA Form 300A by July 1, 2017. The reporting will have to be done annually.

Action Step for Employers
Review the types of injuries and illnesses that will need to be reported, bearing in mind that the reports will be made publicly available online. OSHA generally requires employers to record work-related injuries or illnesses, ones that involve a loss of consciousness, restricted work activity, or a job transfer, days away from work or medical treatment beyond first aid, or hearing loss. Employers should be aware that reporting obligations run to the worksite, not the employer, so individual employers may have to make many reports each year.

Increased Fines
Starting in August, penalties for violations of OSHA regulations will increase from $70,000 for a willful or repeat violation to $124,709. Similarly, the penalty for serious violation will increase from $7,000 to $12,471.

This is an overview of the new OSHA requirements. If you are subject to these new requirements, consider contacting an OSHA specialist to put a solid plan in place.