By:  Bruce Rolfson
Source: Bloomberg News

Watchdog Finds OSHA Injury Reporting Woes, Limited Enforcement

Fewer than half of all employers are complying with OSHA injury and illness reporting requirements because of the agency’s outdated notification methods and near-toothless enforcement, a federal watchdog said.

The Government Accountability Office said that of the estimated 459,000 employers that should have electronically filed OSHA reports, called Forms 300 and 300A, for 2019, only 46% complied. That’s better than 2017, the requirement’s first year, when the response rate was 35%.

The GAO findings released in a report Wednesday also said OSHA has limited procedures for encouraging compliance and for penalizing employers that don’t comply. Of the estimated 724,000 employers that failed to file from 2017 through 2019, only 255 employers were cited for not filing, the watchdog found.

OSHA told the GAO that the agency identified nearly 220,000 employers in 2019 that may not have reported their data and mailed reminder postcards to about 27,000 of those. The agency said it didn’t have the budget to contact the other 193,000 employers or determine how many of the 27,000 workplaces filed reports.

An OSHA representative didn’t immediately respond to an emailed request to discuss the GAO’s findings.

The GAO report prompted the chairman of the House Committee on Education and Labor, Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), to call for a measure that would make it easier to cite an employer who didn’t comply with OSHA rules for recording and reporting injuries and illnesses.

“Securing reliable data on workplace safety is critical to OSHA’s mission,” Scott said in an email.

The Accurate Workplace Injury and Illness Records Restoration Act introduced Wednesday would reverse the 2017 Congressional Review Act resolution that canceled OSHA’s rule allowing it to cite employers for recordkeeping violations that occurred up to five years before discovery by OSHA.

The 2017 act set a six-month limit, the same limit that applies to other types of OSHA violations.

Former OSHA head Loren Sweatt responded to the GAO findings in a response dated Dec. 10. She said the GAO “failed to understand the agency’s enforcement process,” noting that anytime OSHA inspects an employer, the inspection includes a review of the injury and illness records that could lead to a citation.