For manufacturers, developing a strong, compliant safety program is critical to protecting employees and to avoid landing in hot water with regulators. As OSHA continues to update its 2016 rule on recording and reporting workplace injuries and illnesses, organizations should be aware of new policies that affect how they treat – and reward – safety in the workplace.

The provisions include new reporting requirements for employers, as well as anti-retaliation clauses to encourage employees to come forward when incidents happen. For businesses, the new regulations require a close look at existing reporting practices and safety incentive programs to ensure they’re in compliance. Here’s how to keep up with the latest regulations and create a safe, productive workplace for your employees.

A new focus on transparency

OSHA’s recordkeeping rules apply to organizations in a variety of industries, including food and kindred products, furniture & Fixtures machinery, and transportation equipment.

Depending on their size, the rule requires organizations to follow certain reporting requirements. Employers with more than 250 employees are required to submit 300, 301 and 300A. OSHA is proposing (but has not finalized) a rule that would only require the submission of 300As from these employers. Employers with 20 to 249 employees in certain high-hazard industries, must also submit 300As. It’s also worthwhile to note that the OSHA rule applies per establishment, not per company. So, if a company has 10 locations, each of which has 249 employees, they fall into the 20-249 category. Companies with less than 20 employees don’t need to report, but they must keep the information on file.

In addition to reporting requirements, OSHA is reemphasizing anti-retaliation provisions for employers on workplace safety. While serious injuries are likely obvious and highly visible, these rules aim to document smaller injuries as well. Under the provisions, employees need to:

  • Inform employees they have a right to report injuries or illnesses;
  • Establish “reasonable” procedures that won’t discourage employees from reporting work-related injuries and illnesses;
  • Avoid any retaliation against employees for reporting.

Be careful with incentives

For manufacturers, that also means being careful about workplace safety incentives and other aspects of their safety programs. While OSHA encourages businesses to appropriately promote and overall culture of safety and health, penalizing an employee for reporting a work-related injury or illness rather than for the legitimate purpose of promoting workplace safety is clearly against their policy.

Practices that would typically present a “red flag” to OSHA and should be avoided under the anti-retaliation rules include:

  • Blanket drug testing for injured employees, except when required by the workers’ compensation program
  • Disciplining an employee who reports an injury or illness, regardless of whether the employee violated a safety rule
  • Disqualifying an employee who reports an injury or illness from a promotion or bonus
  • Pre-textual discipline, based on a violation of the safety rules
  • Violation of situational awareness
  • Safety incentive programs that reward employees for not reporting workplace injuries or illnesses, or denying employees these incentives if they report injuries

Staying compliant

With OSHA safety provisions and associated deadlines still in flux, keeping up with these rapidly evolving regulations can be a major challenge for time-strapped organizations. Many states are also interpreting and enforcing these OSHA updates differently, adding to the overall complexity. To stay compliant, employers need to stay abreast of the federal changes as well as the implementation of their state OSHA plan. 

With the right tools, expert guidance and cross-departmental collaboration, manufacturers can navigate changes to OSHA’s reporting and recordkeeping rules more successfully. Here’s where to start:

  1. Audit your existing safety practices. A thorough scan of your current policies – and how they’re implemented day-to-day – can be an eye-opener for many businesses.
  2. Update your official policies. Change anything in your company’s documents or programs that needs to be updated, whether this means adjusting the language or simply altering the emphasis. Have an external expert take a look at your documents to ensure they’re compliant.
  3. Keep up with the latest news. With news continuing to develop around these OSHA regulations, technology-enabled tools can help business leaders stay updated without getting bogged down in data overload, such as customizable monitoring alerts based on your industry, location and other key factors to provide an instant snapshot of what needs your attention.
  4. Communicate with your team. To maintain a safe, compliant work environment, communicate changes and expectations to your entire workforce. Train leaders so they can make sure employees understand and follow safety rules. Follow disciplinary rules consistently, while exercising good faith in administering workers’ compensation.