Sponsored By
Clare Goldsberry

June 17, 2016

5 Min Read
New OSHA rule seeks to ‘nudge’ employers to prevent workplace injuries, illnesses

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a new rule on May 11, 2016, to “modernize injury data collection to better inform workers, employers, the public and OSHA about workplace hazards.” According to a news release from the Department of Labor, with the new rule, OSHA is applying the insights of behavioral economics to improve workplace safety and prevent injuries and illnesses.

Image courtesy Stuart Miles/
freedigitalphotos.net.

The new rule goes into effect August 10, 2016, with phased in data submissions beginning in 2017, and applies to all establishments with 250 or more employees in a range of industries covered by the recordkeeping regulation. Under the new rule, those companies must electronically submit to OSHA injury and illness information from OSHA forms 300, 300A and 301. Establishments with 20 to 249 employees in certain industries must electronically submit information from OSHA Form 300A only. Prior to this new rule, companies kept records on workplace injuries and illnesses but only had to disclose them to OSHA if the company was being investigated.

OSHA officials see this new rule as a way to “ensure that injury data on OSHA logs are accurate and complete.” They also believe that the “availability of these data will enable prospective employees to identify workplaces where the risk of injury is lowest; as a result, employers competing to hire the best workers will make injury prevention a higher priority,” said the DoL release. “Access to these data will also enable employers to benchmark their safety and health performance against industry leaders to improve their own safety programs.”

Not everyone is thrilled with this new rule, however. Rosario Palmieri, Vice President of Labor, Legal and Regulatory Policy for the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM; Washington, DC), commented: “Today, this administration put a target on nearly every company and manufacturer in the United States. Manufacturers are supportive of regulations aimed at increasing transparency, and we pride ourselves on creating safe workplaces for the men and women who make things in America. However, this regulation will lead to the unfair and unnecessary public shaming of these businesses. This is a misguided attempt at transparency that sacrifices employee and employer privacy, allows for distribution of proprietary information and creates burdens for all manufacturers. We will look at options to protect manufacturers from this certain threat to the modern shop floor.”

Manufacturers understand the value of providing a safe and healthy working environment because lost worker time is lost production which equates to lost revenue. In many small to mid-sized privately held manufacturing plants, such as processors and moldmakers, workers are like family to the owner/management and I know from having worked in manufacturing that the last thing in the world they want is for someone to get hurt on the production floor. That is why many will see this rule as more unnecessary regulatory overreach by a government bureaucracy whose rules go way beyond just wanting to maintain oversight on unsafe industries.

Manufacturing companies have insurance—including health insurance for their employees and risk management and liability insurance for their businesses—and with these costs rising every year, the best thing an employer can do is make sure that claims stay low by ensuring a safe working environment. Insurance companies even give out awards to their manufacturer clients for no reportable incidents over the course of a year. Recently, distributor Composites One (Arlington Heights, IL) was presented the Platinum award by Great West Casualty Co., a leading provider of property and casualty insurance for the trucking industry, as a part of the 2015 National Safety Awards Program. This is the 14th consecutive year that Composites One has been named an award recipient.     

The National Safety Awards Program recognizes carriers in similar operations with awards based on their year-end preventable accident results. Carriers are eligible to receive a Platinum, Gold, Silver or Participatory award. This past year, the program drew over 675 participants from across the country.   

“Composites One is proud to once again receive this recognition by Great West,” said Leon Garoufalis, President of Composites One. “Maintaining safety in all aspects of our day-to-day operations is a core value at Composites One and translates directly to our value proposition for customers in quality service and dependability. Composites One leads the industry with our safety record, which is a result of our company-wide focus on safety and compliance each and every day.”

Most companies feel that way, and are proud of the safe work environment as well as the benefits they provide their employees. And they want to maintain that.

When government officials wonder why so many manufacturers move their facilities offshore, in many cases they need look no further than onerous government regulations that make doing business in the United States a complex maze of costly rules that serve no real purpose. This new rule is more than just a “nudge” to get employers to make their workplaces safer; this is a shove that may drive some companies out of business because they are fed up with the increasing regulatory climate that makes doing business here nearly impossible.

It reminds me of the oxymoronic phrase from President Ronald Reagan that you see going around on social media: “Hi, I’m from the government, and I’m here to help you.”

What do you think about the new rule? Share your opinion with the PlasticsToday audience by taking our Quick Poll on our home page.

About the Author(s)

Clare Goldsberry

Until she retired in September 2021, Clare Goldsberry reported on the plastics industry for more than 30 years. In addition to the 10,000+ articles she has written, by her own estimation, she is the author of several books, including The Business of Injection Molding: How to succeed as a custom molder and Purchasing Injection Molds: A buyers guide. Goldsberry is a member of the Plastics Pioneers Association. She reflected on her long career in "Time to Say Good-Bye."

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