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OSHA proposal would make workplace safety records public

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently proposed changes to its workplace reporting rules that, if enacted, would require public disclosure of illness and injury reports by many larger employers.

Under the proposed rules, many employers would be required to provide electronic reports of worker injuries and illnesses. The reports would be available online and accessible by the public.

If the electronic reporting rule is adopted, companies with more than 250 employees would be required to submit the reports on a quarterly basis, affecting approximately 38,000 employers nationwide. Additionally, in certain higher-risk industries, companies with 20 or more employees would be required to submit illness and injury summaries on an annual basis, the Associated Press reported. This requirement would affect an additional 440,000 U.S. companies.

New rule could improve workplace safety

OSHA representatives and others who support the proposed change say that making safety data publicly available would encourage employers to take a more active role in identifying and eliminating safety hazards in the workplace. Meanwhile, some business groups have expressed reservations about the proposal, saying that raw data can be easily misinterpreted when taken out of context and may provide a skewed perception of a company's safety record.

Under current OSHA rules, employers are required to post annual injury and illness summaries in a location where they can be seen by employees, but they are not required to file the reports electronically or make them available to the public. OSHA is currently accepting comments on the proposed rule, and a hearing is scheduled to occur on January 9, 2014, to determine whether to make the change.

Workplace injuries in Wisconsin

There were nearly 3 million worker injuries and over 3,400 workplace fatalities reported by private employers in the United States in 2012, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In Wisconsin, the law requires most employers to carry workers' compensation insurance, which provides financial benefits to employees and their families in the event of a work-related injury, illness or death. Adopted in 1911, the purpose of the Wisconsin workers' compensation system is to provide injured workers and their dependents with streamlined access to medical care and financial benefits without the need for extended litigation.

The Wisconsin Workers' Compensation Act attempts to balance the interests of both employers and employees by holding employers financially responsible for on-the-job injuries and illnesses regardless of fault, while also placing limits on the remedies available to injured workers.

Wisconsin workers who have been injured on the job or developed a work-related illness are encouraged to speak with an experienced workers' compensation attorney to learn about their options. It is important to understand that medical and financial remedies may be available even if the injury or illness did not result from negligence on the part of the employer.

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