OSHA Compliance

Safety Group Opposes e-Reporting Rule

Top safety group believes requiring companies to electronically report injuries and illnesses may do more harm than good.
By: | April 21, 2014 • 4 min read

A proposal to require companies to electronically report their injury and illness records may do more harm than good. The American Society of Safety Engineers said it’s not clear how the proposed rule would enhance workplace safety, and it may have unintended consequences.

ASSE submitted a letter to OSHA on its proposed rule, Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses. It includes the following requirements:

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Establishments with 250 or more employees would need to electronically submit their injury and illness records to OSHA on a quarterly basis and summary data annually.

Establishments with 20 or more employees would electronically submit the annual summary form.

Upon notification, employers would be required to electronically submit to OSHA specified information from the records they keep, or would keep, under Part 1904.

ASSE logo“ASSE does not believe that OSHA has explained adequately how the collection of the information will actually improve workplace safety or how OSHA will manage the information that it would collect,” the safety organization wrote. “ASSE also believes that publication of the information will make more difficult the efforts of safety professionals to focus companies on prevention of hazards rather than just reporting of injuries.  For these reasons, ASSE requests that OSHA withdraw the proposed rule until the agency can develop clearer objectives and a stronger rationale for this initiative.”

OSHA announced the proposed rule in November and allowed a 90-day comment period, and subsequently extended the comment period to mid-March. The agency said the plan does not add new requirements to keep records, it merely modifies an employer’s obligation to transmit them to OSHA.

Among ASSE’s concerns is what it says are “inconsistent explanations” about the impact of the rule.

“For example, OSHA has tried to minimize the impact of the rule by saying that it is the same information collection and publishing as has been done for the past several years under the OSHA Data Initiative except that it would cover more establishments,” the letter states. “However, as OSHA acknowledged at the public meeting in January, it is not just the number of establishments that would be increased, but also additional detailed information that is collected and would be published on each individual establishment. OSHA’s failure to acknowledge the differences between the ODI and the collection of information under the proposed rule does not give assurance that the impacts of the proposed rule have been thoroughly considered.”

ASSE also says OSHA has not explained how the changes will improve workplace safety despite additional costs to employers and the agency. “Does OSHA need this information to target inspections better than it now does?” the letter asks. “For what other surveillance and data collection uses, in addition to targeting enforcement, does OSHA need such data from so many employers? How does OSHA foresee using it to identify locations and hazards needing ‘intervention’?”

Rather than encouraging employers to enhance safety, ASSE says it might have the opposite effect. As the letter explains, companies committed to safety already understand how to avoid public scrutiny by having in place effective systems to protect workers.

“For companies whose commitment to safety needs improvement, most safety and health professionals do not see this approach as an effective way to motivate them,” ASSE says. “Instead, from our members’ front line experience dealing with such companies, this effort has the very real potential of creating a powerful incentive to hide problems, thus making safety and health professionals’ work in convincing, selling, and motivating such employers more difficult.”

Finally, the safety group says the rule would make employers take more of a number-centered approach to safety and health.

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“Public release of numbers and rates of injuries by establishment will cause many employers to use their resources to address ‘trailing,’ not ‘leading’ indicators,” the letter says. “As OSHA itself knows, ‘trailing’ indicators focus an organization on safety after the fact of an injury or fatality. ‘Leading’ indicators better focus an organization on the best practices that prevent injuries and fatalities. ASSE is concerned that this proposal, and the additional attention that a national database of injury rates and numbers will attract, works against the professions’ years of effort in moving workplace safety towards ‘leading’ indicators. While safety and health professionals will continue their effort no matter where OSHA asks companies to focus, this proposal only hinders their efforts.”

Nancy Grover is the president of NMG Consulting and the Editor of Workers' Compensation Report, a publication of our parent company, LRP Publications. She can be reached at [email protected]

4 Companies That Rocked It by Treating Injured Workers as Equals; Not Adversaries

The 2018 Teddy Award winners built their programs around people, not claims, and offer proof that a worker-centric approach is a smarter way to operate.
By: | October 30, 2018 • 3 min read

Across the workers’ compensation industry, the concept of a worker advocacy model has been around for a while, but has only seen notable adoption in recent years.

Even among those not adopting a formal advocacy approach, mindsets are shifting. Formerly claims-centric programs are becoming worker-centric and it’s a win all around: better outcomes; greater productivity; safer, healthier employees and a stronger bottom line.

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That’s what you’ll see in this month’s issue of Risk & Insurance® when you read the profiles of the four recipients of the 2018 Theodore Roosevelt Workers’ Compensation and Disability Management Award, sponsored by PMA Companies. These four programs put workers front and center in everything they do.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top,” said Steve Legg, director of risk management for Starbucks.

Starbucks put claims reporting in the hands of its partners, an exemplary act of trust. The coffee company also put itself in workers’ shoes to identify and remove points of friction.

That led to a call center run by Starbucks’ TPA and a dedicated telephonic case management team so that partners can speak to a live person without the frustration of ‘phone tag’ and unanswered questions.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top.” — Steve Legg, director of risk management, Starbucks

Starbucks also implemented direct deposit for lost-time pay, eliminating stressful wait times for injured partners, and allowing them to focus on healing.

For Starbucks, as for all of the 2018 Teddy Award winners, the approach is netting measurable results. With higher partner satisfaction, it has seen a 50 percent decrease in litigation.

Teddy winner Main Line Health (MLH) adopted worker advocacy in a way that goes far beyond claims.

Employees who identify and report safety hazards can take credit for their actions by sending out a formal “Employee Safety Message” to nearly 11,000 mailboxes across the organization.

“The recognition is pretty cool,” said Steve Besack, system director, claims management and workers’ compensation for the health system.

MLH also takes a non-adversarial approach to workers with repeat injuries, seeing them as a resource for identifying areas of improvement.

“When you look at ‘repeat offenders’ in an unconventional way, they’re a great asset to the program, not a liability,” said Mike Miller, manager, workers’ compensation and employee safety for MLH.

Teddy winner Monmouth County, N.J. utilizes high-tech motion capture technology to reduce the chance of placing new hires in jobs that are likely to hurt them.

Monmouth County also adopted numerous wellness initiatives that help workers manage their weight and improve their wellbeing overall.

“You should see the looks on their faces when their cholesterol is down, they’ve lost weight and their blood sugar is better. We’ve had people lose 30 and 40 pounds,” said William McGuane, the county’s manager of benefits and workers’ compensation.

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Do these sound like minor program elements? The math says otherwise: Claims severity has plunged from $5.5 million in 2009 to $1.3 million in 2017.

At the University of Pennsylvania, putting workers first means getting out from behind the desk and finding out what each one of them is tasked with, day in, day out — and looking for ways to make each of those tasks safer.

Regular observations across the sprawling campus have resulted in a phenomenal number of process and equipment changes that seem simple on their own, but in combination have created a substantially safer, healthier campus and improved employee morale.

UPenn’s workers’ comp costs, in the seven-digit figures in 2009, have been virtually cut in half.

Risk & Insurance® is proud to honor the work of these four organizations. We hope their stories inspire other organizations to be true partners with the employees they depend on. &

Michelle Kerr is associate editor of Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]