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OSHA to Launch Recordkeeping Initiative

Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA John Henshaw has announced that the agency will soon unveil several new compliance assistance measures to assure that injuries and illnesses are being recorded accurately.

Stricter enforcement of the 3-year old recordkeeping rule appears not to be part of the new "Recordkeeping Data Quality Initiative," although Henshaw did mention, "We will be looking at educating our inspectors to assure the data are accurate when they do inspections."

Henshaw, who discussed the new program at the Dec. 8 meeting of the National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health (NACOSH), promised to provide electronic means to help employers comply with the recordkeeping rule. He also said the agency will produce "a new version of the 'Blue Book' to help employers go through the process of determining whether or not [injuries and illnesses are] recordable according to the OSHA requirements."

Many stakeholders have said under-reporting and under-recording of injuries and illnesses is common, but Henshaw did not discuss whether cheating on the OSHA log is widespread. By way of explanation for the initiative, he pointed out that OSHA is increasingly relying on injury and illness statistics for Site Specific Targeting as well as to determine membership in the Voluntary Protection Program. In addition, the public uses the self-reported data to determine whether an organization is safe.

The OSHA chief compared safety records with financial information, and pointed out that because financial data are so important in evaluating a company's financial performance, these data are validated by outside audits. Auditing OSHA recordkeeping log does not, however, appear to be part of OSHA's data quality initiative.

"What we've got to do is to assure our stakeholders out there that those data are as accurate as we can make them," Henshaw declared, referring to the new recordkeeping standard that took effect in Jan. 2002. "What we want to do is to help employers and ensure they are complying with that new recordkeeping process."

Henshaw also told NACOSH members about a range of OSHA successes and future activities, such as:

  • The number of certified OSHA employees has doubled in the past two years;
  • The trenching initiative is focused on forming alliances and pushing training materials;
  • The hazard communication initiative is moving forward as OSHA looks to improve Material Safety Data Sheets;
  • Reactive chemical hazards are being addressed through workshops, outreach, education, and a compliance directive to help inspectors identify reactive chemicals.

As rumors swirled through Washington that he had already resigned as OSHA administrator, Henshaw asserted, "The important thing is not what we've done, but what we're about to do."

One notable omission from Henshaw's report on the agency's past and future activities: the OSHA administrator said nothing about rulemaking.

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