The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way a lot of us do business, and that also includes government agencies.
In a recent letter sent to its regional directors, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has revised its enforcement guidelines for staff in regard to annual injury and illness reporting requirements to take into account difficulties some employers experienced in trying to use the agency’s online reporting portal to meet the March 2 filing deadline.
In a standard interpretation letter that was dated May 6, 2021, OSHA issued a new enforcement guidance for its staff stating that employers who could not file reports because of issues associated with the Injury Tracking Application (ITA) will not be cited, provided the data was submitted on a timely basis once the ITA became operational.
Accordingly, employers are advised that they should keep written documentation if they experience any issues with using the ITA moving forward, says attorney John S. Ho of the law firm of Cozen O'Connor.
“Illness and injury records play a crucial role in OSHA’s ability to effectively target workplaces where employees are exposed to serious hazards,” the agency officials told its staff. “Therefore, the agency will work to ensure full compliance with this regulation.”
In addition to this enforcement policy, OSHA also reported in the letter that it is developing an analytic approach designed to identify non-responders from the previous calendar year’s data collection process.
OSHA requires covered employers to prepare and post the OSHA Form 300A, Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses, at their establishments annually.
The electronic filing requirement applies to two categories of establishments, notes attorney Catherine A. Cano of the Jackson Lewis law firm.
The first category includes establishments with 20 to 249 employees that are in specific industries with higher instances of injury or illness. Many industries in this category are among those that were hardest hit by COVID-19, such as nursing care facilities, hospitals and other healthcare providers, manufacturers, and grocery stores.
The second category includes establishments with 250 or more employees that are required to keep OSHA injury and illness records. In other words, establishments with 250 or more employees that are not otherwise exempted must electronically file the OSHA 300A.
Normally, the deadline for submitting the form is in January, but this year because of complications arising from COVID-19, the deadline was postponed. The agency required covered employers to electronically submit Form 300A data for the calendar year 2020 between Jan. 2 and March 2, 2021.
The OSHA Form 300A is the second page of OSHA’s Form 300, employers are reminded by attorneys Chantell Foley and Todd Logsdon of the Fisher Phillips law firm.
Form 300A serves as a summary of all recordable work-related injuries and illnesses that occurred in 2020, including the total number of cases, the total number of days employees spent away from work or on restriction, and specific injury and illness types. A particular concern for employers this year was accurately and completely recording COVID-19 cases among the workforce.
Once completed, the form must be posted at each establishment in a conspicuous place for three months. If no recordable incidents or illnesses occurred in 2020, the form must still be completed and posted. “Some employers are unaware that OSHA can cite an employer who fails to post the OSHA Form 300A as required, even if no recordable incidents or illnesses need to be reported,” Foley and Logsdon observe.
Ho warns that employers should be prepared for much more aggressive OSHA enforcement in all areas, including recordkeeping, in the future. He points out that the White House recently proposed a $64 million boost to OSHA’s budget, including the creation of 362 new full-time equivalent staff positions in order to accomplish this objective.