Modernizing OSHA’s reporting system is one of the most significant developments in the most recent OSHA standards-setting agenda released April 26 by the Labor Department.

The “modernization” is in the earliest prerule state of standards-setting, meaning the final rule is years away, and may require a second Obama term to complete. It is one of two agenda items of special importance to OSHA boss Dr. David Michaels, the second being development of an injury and illness prevention standard.

In a web chat, Dr. Michaels had this to say: “Injury tracking and analysis are important tools for employers, workers, and OSHA. They help identify the causes of injuries and therefore are very important in injury prevention. Currently, OSHA only requires recording injuries on paper. We believe that moving to a more modern, electronic system will provide information to employers and workers that can be used in real time to investigate and prevent injuries. It will also help OSHA target those workplaces where workers are at greatest risk for injury.”

Says one OSHA observer: “We’ll see how it plays out. I would like to think it would extend beyond the ‘how’ data is collected to the deeper questions of ‘what’ gets collected and why. Ultimately, we are going to have to find a way to get to the deeper problems of not relying on OSHA and trailing indicators alone to measure safety and health performance.”