Steiner Technologies

Manufacturing Memo: OSHA Ruling Aims to Improve Safety in the Workplace

The more we shine the spotlight on the topic of safety and accident-prevention, the more it raises awareness on workplace safety for manufacturers. (In fact, this topic fueled our most popular blog to date, CNC Machine Safety: 3 Operator Risks Every Manufacturing Company Should Know About.) 

Creating awareness around workplace safety is also the intention behind recent developments from The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Here’s a quick look at OSHA’s proposed provision, why it affects employers — and how it aims to make safety a greater priority among work environments nationwide. 

What is OSHA’s provision?

In May, 2016, OSHA issued a final rule on recordkeeping requirements, requiring certain employers to electronically submit injury and illness records directly to OSHA. Employers are already required to keep such records under existing regulations. 

Why is this provision significant to workplace safety on a large scale?

With injury and accident reports made publicly available through electronic records, more employers will likely be compelled to evaluate and/or improve upon their existing safety policies and procedures. On the manufacturing floor, for example, this could encompass anything from stricter enforcement of lockout/tagout procedures to requiring machinists to wear ear protection. 

Also, according to a recent article from the United States Department of Labor1, “This regulation will improve the accuracy of this data by ensuring that workers will not fear retaliation for reporting injuries or illnesses.” And finally, the Department of Labor cites, “As we have seen in many examples, more attention to safety will save the lives and limbs of many workers, and will ultimately help the employer’s bottom line as well.” 

When do the changes take place?

The requirement became effective on January 1, 2017 with a two-year phase-in period. For required employers, the first deadline for phasing in electronic submissions was originally drafted for July 1, 2017 but has now been extended to December 1, 2017. The functionality for electronic submissions is said to become available through OSHA on August 1, 2017.  More information and updates on submission rules will be posted on OSHA’s Injury Tracking Application (ITA) webpage. 

Waiting Out Uncertainties

OSHA’s rule, which applies to roughly 441,000 workplaces2, has met a few challenges from the current administration that have caused the original July phase-in deadline to slide. While that has left some employers feeling uncertain about what is required from them in the future, it seems that most companies (like our team here at Steiner) are simply keeping an ear out for updates, and waiting for the electronic reporting functionality to become available so they can follow protocol. 

At the very least, OSHA’s proceedings have given manufacturers like us yet another reason to take a second look at workplace safety – both in our own facilities and on a large scale. While the past few years have seen a noticeable decline in the number of reported workplace injuries and illnesses, there are still about 2.9 million private industry injury and illness cases reported each year (Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2015). While this has improved from previous years, it is still too many in our view. Of course, there is no guarantee that the OSHA ruling will dramatically impact that statistic -- but again, it’s yet another reason to keep the safety conversation at the forefront. 

Sources:
1 Final Rule Issued to Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses by United States Department of Labor, OSHA, accessed July 17, 2017 
2 Eilperin, Juliet, OSHA Suspends Rule Requiring Firms Report Injury and Illness Data Electronically, published by Washingtonpost.com, accessed July 17, 2017