Devised to maintain accountability and “nudge” employers toward injury and illness prevention, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued its final rule that modernizes data collection to better inform workers, employers, the public and OSHA about workplace hazards.

OSHA currently requires many employers to keep a record of injuries and illnesses to help them and their employees identify hazards, fix problems and prevent additional injuries and illnesses. However, little or no information about worker injuries and illnesses at individual locations is made public or available to OSHA. Under the new rule, employers in high-hazard industries must send OSHA injury and illness data electronically for posting on the agency’s website.

“Since high injury rates are a sign of poor management, no employer wants to be seen as operating a dangerous workplace,” says David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for OSHA. “Our new reporting requirements will 'nudge' employers to prevent worker injuries and illnesses to demonstrate to investors, job seekers, customers and the public that they operate safe and well-managed facilities. Access to injury data will also help OSHA better target our compliance assistance and enforcement resources at establishments where workers are at greatest risk and enable ‘big data’ researchers to apply their skills to make workplaces safer.”

To ensure the injury data on OSHA logs are accurate and complete, the final rule also promotes an employee’s right to report injuries and illnesses without fear of retaliation and clarifies that an employer must have a reasonable procedure for reporting work-related injuries that does not discourage employees from reporting. Using data collected under the new rule, OSHA will create the largest US publicly available data set on work injuries and illnesses, enabling researchers to study injury causation, identify new workplace safety hazards before they become widespread and evaluate the effectiveness of injury and illness prevention activities. OSHA will remove all personally identifiable information associated with the data before it is publicly accessible.

The new requirements take effect August 10, 2016, with phased-in data submissions beginning in 2017. The final rule can be found here.