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The Occupational Safety and Health Administration this month initiated a program to identify employers who failed to submit required workplace injury and illness data.

“They’re trying to crack down on what probably is a big chunk of them that aren’t doing it,” labor attorney Allen Hutson said.

OSHA requires companies with 250 or more employees to keep injury and illness records and submit the information electronically each March for the prior year. The requirement also applies to businesses with 20 to 249 employees if they fall under specific industries with historically high rates of occupational injuries and illnesses.

By mid-March, 289,849 establishments had submitted the OSHA Form 300A information, according to the regulatory agency.

“If you didn’t meet the March deadline, it’s never too late to do the right thing,” said Hutson, a director in Crowe & Dunlevy’s Oklahoma City office. “Don’t wait until they’re knocking on the door.”

The new program is looking at all open OSHA investigations and cross-referencing them with a list of companies that did not electronically submit the injury and illness information, he said. OSHA will issue citations for failure to submit the data if a company is out of compliance.

Even if the violation is deemed “other than serious,” the fine could be $5,000 to $10,000, Hutson said. The cost is higher for serious or willful violations.

Most high-risk industries – including oil and gas, construction, meat packing, manufacturing, distribution, health care and utilities – have a safety person to ensure the proper data collection and submission is done, he said.

In other sectors, however, employers may not pay much attention to OSHA rules.

“It’s easy for an employer who is juggling a lot to forget about the OSHA 300 log,” Hutson said. The immediate concerns when an employee is injured are medical treatment, the workers compensation claim and someone to fill in for the employee during recovery.

If the employer puts off recording the incident until next week that can turn into next month and next month can turn into the end of the year, he said.

Any workplace injury that requires more than basic first aid must be reported, Huston said.

OSHA developed the new enforcement program in response to recommendations from the Government Accountability Office.

“OSHA believes that it is vital for the public to have access to illness and injury information that employers provide in their annual submissions,” said Doug Parker, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health. “We are committed to enforcing this important requirement and will continue to look for strategies to reach full compliance.”

In addition to the stepped-up reporting compliance effort, OSHA has proposed a rule change that would require companies with 100 or more employees to submit the annual Form 300A information rather than those with 250 or more workers.

Hutson said it would focus on specific industries at higher risk of injury and illness – not every industry – but still would “catch a pretty wide swath of employers.”

Regardless of potential changes or number of employees, all companies are required to record injuries and illnesses, summarize the information and post it annually in the workplace, he said.