OSHA Stepping Up Enforcement on Employers Who Fail to Submit Electronic Injury Report

OSHA Stepping Up Enforcement on Employers Who Fail to Submit Electronic Injury Report

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is cracking down on employers who fail to submit Form 300A data through the agency’s Injury Tracking Application (ITA).

OSHA has started an enforcement program that matches newly opened inspections against a list of potential nonresponders to OSHA’s collection of Form 300A data through the ITA and reports all matches to the appropriate OSHA area office. If the area office determines that the establishment on the list is the same establishment where the inspection was opened, OSHA will issue citations for failure to submit OSHA Form 300A Summary data.

OSHA is also reviewing the 2021 submitted data to identify nonresponders at a corporate-wide level. This corporate-level review is being conducted for the nation’s largest employers. Annual electronic submissions are required by establishments with 250 or more employees currently required to keep OSHA injury and illness records, and establishments with 20-249 employees classified in specific industries with historically high rates of occupational injuries and illnesses.

OSHA is also posting ITA data as part of its electronic record-keeping requirements for certain employers. By mid-March, 289,849 establishments had submitted their OSHA Form 300A information.

Public access to injury and illness data for industries, companies and establishments is seen by record-keeping advocates as a way to allow employers, workers, potential employees, and others to better understand workplace safety and health outcomes at an employer or industry. Employers of all sizes can use this data to benchmark with others in their industry or compare results across their operations. Advocates say this accessibility will help identify and mitigate workplace hazards and reduce occupational injuries and illnesses.

Study Indicates Employer Plans on Mandates, Masks

A forthcoming survey from consultancy WTW shows employers with vaccine mandates intend to keep them in place for the rest of the year. More than one in three U.S. employers currently requires vaccines (38%), and only 5% of those say they plan to drop the requirement by the end of the year. However, most employers who responded to the survey (86%) say they will eliminate their mask mandates by the end of the year.

The Emerging Trends in Health Care Survey was conducted in March and surveyed 636 U.S. employers. The survey is expected to be released in May; however, WTW released some results early. 

More than half of employers who responded say they have concerns about long COVID-19. Fifty-four percent said they consider long COVID an issue for their workforce. Forty-seven percent said they’ve provided accommodations, such as reduced hours and remote work. And 29% expect to provide accommodations in the future. In addition, 45% of respondents added or enhanced access to mental health services, and 32% expect to do so in the future.

National Report Cites Mental Health Issues in the Workplace

As the COVID-19 pandemic stretched into its second year, 7 in 10 employees found it difficult to concentrate at work, according to the 2022 Mind the Workplace report released by Mental Health America.

More than 11,300 U.S. employees across 17 industries were surveyed in 2021. According to the survey, 71% of respondents found it difficult to concentrate at work, compared to 65% in 2020 and 46% in 2018.

The report also finds rates of stress leading to increased mental health concerns among employees remain prominent across organizational sizes and industries. Seventy-eight percent of respondents agreed that their workplace stress affects their mental health; however, this percentage was a slight decrease compared to 85% who agreed in 2020.

According to the report, many companies have implemented programs focused on stress management and burnout mitigation since the pandemic, which may have decreased employee stress levels. However, the report also notes that employees may have become desensitized or adjusted to an increased level of sustained stress and unease over the past two years.

More than half of respondents spent time looking for a new position in 2021, compared to 40% in 2018. The report also revealed 2 in 3 employees are not comfortable providing feedback to their manager about their performance, with more than half of employees saying they don’t feel confident enough to negotiate responsibilities or workload with their manager. Further reducing open dialogue, only a third of respondents said company leaders talk openly about mental health.

Other significant findings include:

  • Eighty percent agree that the stress from work affects their relationships with friends, family and co-workers.
  • Only 40% agree that their company invests in developing supportive managers.
  • Fifty-nine percent report that their manager cares about their personal well-being.
  • Fifty-eight percent disagree that their manager encourages them to take off time when needed.
  • Forty-seven percent know what mental health services they can use when struggling with a mental health concern, but only 38% would be comfortable using their company’s services for a mental health concern.

The full report is available here.

Cutting the Costs of Comorbidity: How Companies Are Helping Employees Help Themselves

Over the past two decades, experts have repeatedly linked the increasing costs of work-related injuries with a rise in the rate of employee comorbidities. “Comorbidity” occurs when more than one disease or condition, often chronic or long-term in nature, is present in the same person at the same time. These conditions can prolong and even amplify worker injuries, complicating treatment and recovery and delaying an employee’s return to work. Just as COVID-19 has impacted individuals with comorbidities more seriously than the generally fit, so too are workplace injuries worsened by such conditions. The bottom line is increased medical and rehabilitation costs to the employer.

Among the most common comorbidities in the U.S. labor market are obesity and the causally related diabetes. In 2007, Duke University released the results of a study titled “Obesity Increases Workers’ Compensation Costs.” Researchers found that, on average, obese workers filed twice as many workers’ compensation claims as their non-obese counterparts. According to a report from the National Council on Compensation Insurance released in October 2012, the number of workers’ compensation claims involving a comorbid condition nearly tripled from 2000 to 2009. This report also showed that claims with a comorbidity had about twice the medical costs of otherwise comparable claims. In 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concluded that over 50% of Americans had at least one of 10 common chronic illnesses, including such common comorbidities as diabetes and hypertension.

It is estimated that over 40% of Americans are obese, with many at risk for developing the blood sugar imbalance that leads to diabetes. Diabetes is generally manageable with medication and lifestyle modifications, but it can lead to serious complications, even death. Other commonly cited comorbidities are arthritis; hypertension; mental health issues, including depression; asthma; and substance abuse.

How can employers curb the increase in comorbidities in the American workforce? Many employers are encouraging, and in some cases incentivizing, workers to improve their own health through a variety of wellness initiatives. Some promote healthy eating in company cafeterias. Others offer health screening opportunities, yoga classes, and counseling and education on making better nutritional choices. One Austin law firm sponsors a yearly team-building exercise in which groups of employees compete to see who can log the most walking miles, with prizes for the winners. Research supports the notion that wellness programs can have a positive impact on employee health. While there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, an increasing number of employers are realizing that getting workers to improve their health and well-being isn’t just good for their hearts, minds and morale — it’s a benefit to the company’s bottom line as well.

Evolving Risks That Impact Workplace Injuries

Understanding the risks that can cause workplace injury can help organizations take measures to make the workplace safer. Four trends in particular merit employer scrutiny.

Online technology platform Zippia says nearly 3 out of 4 companies (74%) allow hybrid work or plan to do so. The shift to hybrid work leads to what global insurer Travelers calls the changing nature of work. Travelers suggests organizations that use contract workers or have employees working from home ensure that their work environment is safe and appropriate for the expected job duties performed.

First-year workers account for a disproportionate share of workplace injuries. Implementing a robust new-hire training program on workplace safety, including ongoing efforts, can have a significant impact on reducing first-year injuries. 

Understanding other complicating medical issues employees may have as they age can allow companies to put in place programs to support the workforce in managing these factors while reducing the risks of related occupational injuries. 

Distracted driving is another area organizations should focus on. Travelers says 61% of drivers say they respond to texts, emails and calls while driving because there may be an emergency. This creates a significant injury exposure for organizations with employees on the road, as auto accidents are the largest source of workplace fatalities. Travelers suggests organizations consider implementing a formal plan to help employees avoid driving distracted.

The opioid crisis continues to affect organizations and injured workers alike. Misuse of opioid painkillers by injured workers can lead to drug dependency and addiction, longer recovery periods, more missed workdays, and increased expenses. Many organizations are turning to alternative pain management solutions to limit or avoid prescription painkillers and reduce negative outcomes on workers and organizations.

Organizations are also advised to engage injured workers in a personalized care plan as soon as possible after a workplace injury because delaying treatment often results in slower recovery and long-term breaks from employment.

New Cost-Benefit Calculator Measures ROI of Safety Technologies

The National Safety Council (NSC) has issued a new report looking at the financial benefit that businesses can expect to see after investing in eight major safety technologies. The technologies are:

  • Fatigue-monitoring wearables
  • Autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) for materials handling
  • Lone worker mobile applications
  • In-cab technology for fatigue monitoring
  • Software to verify employee training and certifications
  • Proximity-monitoring wearables, to limit contact accidents between employees and equipment
  • Virtual reality technology for digital training
  • Unmanned aerial vehicles for confined-space inspections

The NSC has developed a return on investment (ROI) calculator to help businesses estimate, for each of these technologies, the net return they can expect after making the investment and how soon it will reach a break-even point. The calculator can be accessed here.

The calculator can generate ROI estimates tailored to a wide range of industries and company sizes. For example, for a construction company with 200 high-risk worksite machinery/vehicles and 1,000 employees per shift (including night shifts), the cost of installing proximity beacons on the equipment and supplying proximity wearables to employees would generate a cost benefit of $33,250 in year 1 and $1.7 million in year 5. 

The new report is part of the NSC’s Work To Zero initiative, which aims to eliminate all non-roadway workplace fatalities by 2050. The initiative was launched in 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic began, and came in response to a troubling upward trend in workplace fatalities. 

The NSC estimates that in 2019, work-related deaths and injuries cost the nation, employers and individuals $171 billion. That figure includes $53 billion in wage and productivity losses, $35 billion in medical expenses, and $59 billion in administrative costs. It found that workplace injuries in 2019 led to 105 million work days lost that year, and will result in 55 million work days being lost in future years.

When calculating your company’s ROI for different types of safety programs and technology, businesses are encouraged to include both the direct and indirect cost of both the injury type and the proposed solution, and to be creative in estimating the benefit of making the investment. Companies are recommended to include:

  • Decreased lost time: Improvements in days away from work, restricted work, job transfer rates, and days for transfer or restriction.
  • Lower insurance costs, particularly for workers’ compensation: Be aware that it may take several years for a decrease in documented injuries or claims to be reflected in insurance premiums.
  • Greater productivity and profitability: While improved employee morale can be harder to estimate, there is a clear link between high morale and higher productivity and profitability.

Survey of Business Executives Forecasts Increased Use of Hybrid Work Model

A new survey from AT&T and Dubber Corporation Limited finds most business executives believe hybrid work will become standard across industries by 2024, despite nearly 3 out of 4 businesses (72%) lacking a detailed hybrid work strategy.

Other significant findings from the survey, “The State of the Industry: Future of Work,” include:

  • Some 81% of respondents believe hybrid work will be the foremost working model by 2024, with 56% of work done off-site.
  • Eighty-six percent of respondents believe their employees prefer a hybrid work model, but 64% believe their organization prefers an on-premise work model.
  • All respondents believe a hybrid work model will help attract young talent.

The top challenges to effective hybrid work identified by respondents include maintaining employee oversight, losing institutional/tribal knowledge, and sustaining company culture — all traditionally associated with in-person work. 

Artificial intelligence and machine learning were identified as the top transformative technologies in the survey, specifically in the areas of employee training and conversational help. Lack of workplace innovation, insufficient oversight and cultural shifts were identified as three barriers to successful hybrid work, but participants believed they were not insurmountable.

Additional highlights include:

  • Ninety-one percent believe a hybrid work model will improve workforce diversity.
  • Fifty-eight percent believe they don’t have the culture to sustain a hybrid work model.
  • Seventy-nine percent believe hybrid working is effective in driving productivity, but 45% feel it does not support innovation, and 54% see it impacting collaboration.

The Future of Work study was conducted on behalf of AT&T and Dubber Corporation Limited by Incisiv between October 2021 and November 2021. The survey comprised 303 U.S.-based respondents, 87% above director level, across five key industries, with more than 1 million employees represented.

The full report is available here.

OSHA Continues Health Illness Prevention Efforts

Noting that 18 of the last 19 years were the hottest years on record, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has launched a National Emphasis Program (NEP) to conduct heat-related workplace inspections to improve enforcement and compliance efforts as it continues work toward establishing a heat illness prevention rule.

OSHA will proactively initiate inspections in more than 70 high-risk industries in indoor and outdoor work settings when the National Weather Service has issued a heat warning or advisory for a local area. On days when the heat index is 80°F or higher, OSHA inspectors and compliance assistance specialists will engage in proactive outreach and technical assistance to help stakeholders keep workers safe on the job. Inspectors will look for and address heat hazards during inspections, regardless of whether the industry is targeted in the NEP.

OSHA area offices will engage in outreach to unions, employers in target industries, and other organizations committed to advancing protections for underserved workers. The agency’s On-Site Consultation Program, a free and confidential health and safety consulting program for small- and medium-sized businesses, will assist employers in developing strategic approaches for addressing heat-related illnesses and injuries in workplaces.

The NEP encourages employers to provide employees access to water, rest, shade, adequate training, and to implement acclimatization procedures for new or returning employees.

The NEP targets more than 70 high-risk industries based on the following:

  • Bureau of Labor Statistics data on incidence rates of heat-related illnesses and number of employee days away from work rate.
  • Elevated numbers of fatalities or hospitalizations reported by employers to OSHA.
  • Highest number of heat-related general duty clause 5(a)(1) violations and hazard alert letters over a five-year period (1/1/2017 through 12/31/2021), or highest number of OSHA heat inspections since 2017.

The NEP will remain in effect for three years unless canceled or extended.


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