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New OSHA rule will make workplace injuries public knowledge

When potential employees are asked whether they have questions during interviews, most do not think to ask about the rate of job-related injuries. Even if North Carolina interviewees feel uncomfortable requesting this information from potential employers, they will soon be able to access a detailed list of injuries online. A new rule from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires employers to regularly update the agency with data related to workplace injuries that will then be posted online.

Business groups went on the attack when the rule was first proposed. They asserted that the new mandate was not only unwelcome but also that it could possibly create public embarrassment for companies with high rates of workplace accidents. The groups argued that it would place an undue burden on businesses, with which the director of OSHA vehemently disagreed. He pointed out that companies are already collecting this data and the only additional requirement is that the data now must be sent to OSHA.

OSHA likens the new rule to the letter grades that restaurants receive based on the cleanliness of their facilities. It is believed that making this type of information public will encourage employers to refocus their safety efforts. OSHA also hopes that prospective employees will also make use of the information when deciding where they wish to apply for jobs.

Only companies that employee at least 250 people in an industry with a high risk of hazards must adhere to the new rule. However, it will not be implemented immediately, as OSHA plans to phase it in over the course of two years. When data concerning workplace injuries becomes fully available to the public, it is possible that employers will step up to the plate and begin taking necessary precautions to ensure the safety of all North Carolina workers.

Source: The Guardian, "Public to get online access to US workplaces' injury and illness records", Steven Greenhouse, May 11, 2016

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