, Muskogee, OK

January 7, 2014

Labor commissioner opposes proposed injury online report rule

He’ll tell federal hearing that it would open workplaces to troublemakers

Associated Press

— OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma Labor Commissioner Mark Costello will testify against a proposed federal regulation made by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration that Costello says is “fraught with peril.”

The proposal would require U.S. businesses to electronically submit workplace injury and illness reports to OSHA so the information could be posted online.

It would affect an estimated 250,000 businesses.

“What is coming out under the federal government today is something which is unprecedented and unproven and, in my opinion, universally unwelcomed,” Costello told The Oklahoman.

“It creates an incentive for some people to be dishonest,” he said.

“It would allow lawyers to solicit business, it would diminish entrepreneurial activity, job creation,” he said. “It’s fraught with peril.”

Businesses already are required to collect and keep the information at their worksites, but the proposed regulation would make the information publicly accessible.

“We believe the approach we propose is an effective, inexpensive and nonprescriptive way to encourage employers to reduce hazards and therefore save lives and limbs,” David Michaels, the assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health, said in November when announcing the proposed rule.

“Public posting of workplace injury and illness information will nudge employers to better identify and eliminate hazards,” Michaels said.

Mike Seney, the senior vice president of policy analysis and strategic planning for the State Chamber of Oklahoma, agrees with Costello.

“Oklahoma business owners know that employees are the most important asset, and the safety of our workers is paramount,” he said. “That being said, the proposed regulations go too far with OSHA planning to post the data online. The recording of an accident or injury does not mean the employer was at fault or tell the full story of what happened.

“Businesses fear the data could provide a misleading view of their workplaces, leading to lawyers trolling for potential lawsuit clients and bureaucrats increasing regulatory burdens.”

Costello said if federal officials are convinced the change would be beneficial, they should try it out on a test basis first.

Costello said he is scheduled to testify at 9:30 a.m. Thursday at the U.S. Department of Labor in Washington, D.C.