The debate over what information constitutes a public record and what should remain confidential has been long and storied.
With OSHA’s new reporting guidelines and public database in the forefront, respondents of EHS Today’s 2016 National Safety Survey provided insight into whether they think their business will be affected when injury reports are displayed in a publicly-accessible forum.
Although slightly more than 78 percent of those who responded to the National Safety survey indicated that they think there will no impact on company safety initiatives, the implications of what this means to workplace safety, confidential company information and reputations is causing concern to some safety managers.
The biggest concern mentioned is distrust in the government and the general public to accurately handle, analyze and disseminate the data.
- “The government has proven unworthy of the public trust. This influx of data will be used to force political agendas in-lieu of valid safety issues and thereby further deteriorate public trust,” one respondent said.
- “I believe that many will take the data and make it say what they want without properly analyzing the data.”
- “A focus on lagging indicators. It's basically a body count.”
In addition, some survey takers also question whether the database will cause a decline in the number of incidents reported, and whether releasing confidential records will improve safety overall.
- “Negatively - because it is publicizing confidential records for people to see and they base it off of numbers and statistics which effect bidding on work.”
- “OSHA has become a ‘Big Brother’ in way too many dealings on a daily basis and these initiatives are good but need to help not hinder the progress of a company.”
A public database could provide reasons for OSHA to make more thorough inspections and increase accountability, respondents also said.
Still, some survey takers took time to comment on the public database’s positive impacts.
- “Given the visibility, it will show managers and employees how each injury can affect our customer's business based on their standards.”
- “The public database should help to show common risk and indicate training and areas of emphasis to check.”
- “With the public eye viewing past incidents, I will be able to leverage internally the continued focus on our safety strategy from top level management.”
- “If everyone can see what we are doing wrong, including our customers or potential customers, there will be a big emphasis on getting it fixed.”
One respondent said the database will provide easy access to information, learning opportunities and be an information resource.
The new guidelines require businesses with 250 or more employees that currently keep records to electronically submit information from forms 300, 300A and 301. Companies with fewer employees that fall within a list of 67 specified industries such as manufacturing and construction must submit incident information from Form 300A.
The records will then be entered into the public database after all sensitive, identifiable information is removed, according to OSHA.
The new reporting regulations are in effect as of August 10, 2016 with electronic submission requirements beginning in 2017.