OSHA’s proposal to require companies to electronically submit their injury and illness data – with the goal of creating a publicly accessible online database – would violate injured workers’ privacy and create additional burdens for business, the Maine Department of Labor asserts.
In comments submitted as part of the rulemaking process, the department says it opposes OSHA’s proposed rule changes.
“Posting information online to embarrass workers and employers who have had accidents is the wrong way to encourage workplace safety, especially when it can violate the privacy of an individual who is already suffering from a workplace accident,” Maine Gov. Paul LePage said in a news release. “Maine chooses to be a role model for others by incentivizing workplace safety rather than burdening employers with more regulation, and our track record stands for itself.”
According to an article in the Portland Press Herald, Maine’s 2012 injury and illness rate was 5.5 cases per 100 workers, compared with the national rate of 3.4 per 100 workers. A Maine Department of Labor spokeswoman Julie Rabinowitz told the newspaper that Maine’s injury and illness rate is higher than the national rate “because its employers are more diligent about filling out OSHA surveys, not because its industries and employers are more dangerous.” The Press Herald quoted her as saying:
“Maine is very proactive about filling out that form. Other states tend to under-report their injuries.”
Labor Commissioner Jeanne Paquette noted that because the majority of Maine’s employers are small businesses, a public database of injury and illness records would make it easy to identify injured workers even if their names are not posted.
“The proposal contains no assurances that enough personal information would be scrubbed from the records so that individuals would not be able to be identified,” Paquette said. “Posting this information online could create a potentially embarrassing or even hostile situation for the injured worker.”
She added that Maine’s opposition to the OSHA proposal, “Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses,” does not mean the state is neglecting workplace safety.
“Maine has a strong record on workplace safety and injury reporting,” Paquette said. “The training programs we provide serve as a national model. Employers can take advantage of the free safety courses taught by the department in Augusta and locations statewide, as well as customized courses taught at an employer’s worksite and online.”
Paquette noted that the U.S. Department of Labor has recognized Maine as a leader in teaching injury recordkeeping to employers. Accurate injury and illness reporting “helps the state and businesses identify areas of concern and target training to prevent or avoid injuries,” the Maine Labor Department said.
The state has 63 businesses that participate in the national Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program.