But the 17 state attorneys general, as well as workplace safety and public interest groups, argued that more public information about specific incidents at construction sites would shine a light on unsafe workplaces.
This isn’t the first time OSHA has pushed for more disclosure. Under President Barack Obama, the agency made a similar proposal in 2016, but President Donald Trump rescinded it. Now, President Joe Biden’s new OSHA administrator, Douglas Parker, has brought it back and sees it as a key regulatory priority.
“We think it’s extremely important in this age of data and information that we improve what I think is a… fairly weak system for collecting data on injuries and illnesses,” Parker said during a American Society of Safety Professionals conference in Chicago at the end of June, broadcast online.
OSHA unveiled its proposal in March, widely call for facilities with more than 100 workers in “high-risk industries,” including plastics processing, to provide detailed records of specific incidents on OSHA Forms 300 and 301 each year, rather than general summary data currently required by OSHA. OSHA’s proposal would apply to all workplaces, not just manufacturing.
Some state officials and security and public interest groups strongly support him. State attorneys general, led by New Jersey Attorney General Matthew Platkin, told OSHA in a file that the agency is within its legal authority to collect and publish the more detailed information. This would give workers and the public a clearer picture of the performance of specific factories, they said.
“Protecting the public from workplace safety information does a great disservice to this country’s working population and to consumers,” the AGs said. “Public access to data on workplace accidents and occupational diseases will allow job seekers to identify potential employers with good health and safety records.”
The attorneys general also said the disclosure could benefit companies, giving them much more information to benchmark their operations against those of their peers and target new security investments. And they argued that it would allow their states’ security regulators to better target their limited enforcement resources and reach.
The group Public Citizen says making more information public improves workplace safety, pointing to studies looking at the impact of OSHA press releases.
“The impact was so powerful that press releases led to 73% fewer safety breaches being identified during scheduled inspections at neighboring businesses and fewer injury reports from the same businesses,” the group said. . “Negative publicity has been shown to not only improve the behavior of the featured employer, but also that of other employers.”
Without a big increase in OSHA’s budget, data disclosure can be a good tool for making workplaces safer, he argued. Based on the number of OSHA inspectors in 2018, he said it would take the agency 165 years to visit every job site.
“Making facility-specific data accessible to potential lenders, investors, consumers, the media and the general public would shine a light on unsafe workplaces,” Public Citizen said.
But the group also urged OSHA to rethink some provisions of its proposal, such as exempting companies with more than 250 employees in “low-risk” industries from reporting. In its proposal, OSHA proposed that the new reporting requirement apply to “high risk” industries with an OSHA recordable case rate greater than 3.5 per 100 employees in 2017, 2018 and 2019, as measured by the four-digit codes of the North American Industry Classification System. .
The plastics processing industry, as NAICS code 3261, appears to be on this line. It had a rate of 4.0 in 2017, 3.8 in 2018 and 3.6 in 2019. In 2020, however, plastics processors dropped to an injury rate of 3.5 per 100 workers.
However, the rate varies greatly within small parts of the plastics sector. For plastic plumbing fixtures, the rate in 2020 was 5.9; for rolled forms, it was 4.1; and for plastic pipes and a general catch-all product category, it was 3.7. For other sectors, however, it was less. Plastic packaging and bottle manufacturing each had rates of 3.0.
A worker safety organization that supports OSHA’s proposal, the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, said OSHA’s proposed 3.5 cut-off rate is too high. He said that level would mistakenly exempt industries like automotive parts manufacturing that are below but still pose serious risks.
He also said OSHA’s proposal would not require companies to collect new information.
“This proposal contains no new record-keeping requirements; it simply requires employers to electronically submit information they already maintain to OSHA,” NCOSH wrote. “It is hard to believe that the agency in charge of occupational safety and health does not already receive this information.”