OSHA’s New Reporting Rule Dabbles With Behavioral Economics to Incentivize Workplace Safety

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued a new rule that applies behavioral economics to incentivize workplace safety. The new rule requires electronic submission of workplace injury and illness reports in order to better inform workers, employers and the general public about workplace hazards. OSHA representatives remark that such a policy can be analogized to restaurant grading based on sanitation whereby restaurants must comply with kitchen cleanliness guidelines or suffer public disclosure of violations. Similarly, employers must make workplace safety a priority or face disclosure of workplace injuries and illnesses reported on the soon-to-be publicly-available OSHA database.

Policy-wise, OSHA opines that the public and electronic availability of this data will invoke behavioral economics to achieve change. That is, the rule will enable potential employees to identify safe and unsafe workplaces, while, conversely, encouraging competing employers to step up their injury prevention procedures to ensure employee safety. The final rule also advocates an employee’s right to freely report injuries and illnesses without fear of employer retaliation. In theory, the more accurate reporting will enable researchers to more closely study injury causation in the workplace.

Under the new rule, effective August 10, 2016, employers with 250 or more employees in industries covered under the record-keeping regulation must submit to OSHA injury and illness information from OSHA Forms 300, 300A, and 301. Employers with fewer than 250 employees must electronically submit OSHA Form 300A only. The final rule is available here.

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