After a three-month delay caused by a federal court in Texas, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s anti-retaliation rule took effect this month.
The rule covers only situations where workers report on-the-job injuries and illnesses to OSHA when their employers want to cover them up, and the employer retaliates.
Business groups sued to stop the entire rule, and a federal judge in Texas agreed to consider the case. That prompted OSHA to delay its implementation for three months, until this month. But it really kicks in on Jan. 1, while the anti-retaliation section takes effect now.
Overall, OSHA’s new rule calls for firms to electronically submit injury and illness data that they already record. That will make the data publically available and nudge employers to focus on safety, an OSHA fact sheet says.
“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. Finally, this regulation will improve the accuracy of this data by ensuring that workers will not fear retaliation for reporting injuries or illnesses,” the fact sheet adds.
The anti-retaliation section of the rule “prohibits employers from discouraging workers from reporting an injury or illness,” OSHA says.
“The final rule requires employers to inform employees of their right to report work-related injuries and illnesses free from retaliation, which can be satisfied by posting the already-required OSHA workplace poster.
“It also clarifies the existing implicit requirement that an employer’s procedure for reporting work-related injuries and illnesses must be reasonable and not deter or discourage employees from reporting” and includes the current legal ban on retaliation against workers for reporting work-related injuries and ailments.
The rest of the rule – covering the electronic and public injury and illness reports – starts Jan. 1. Big firms, with over 250 workers, and smaller firms in high-risk industries, must first report by July 1 next year, with smaller firms joining them by March 2, 2018.