Frown on policies that might depress accident reporting

| The Journal Gazette

At a glance

The following are workers’ rights, as outlined by OSHA. Workers have the right to:

• Working conditions that do not pose a risk of serious harm.

• Receive information and training (in a language and vocabulary the worker understands) about workplace hazards, methods to prevent them, and the OSHA standards that apply to that workplace.

• Review records of work-related injuries and illnesses.

• File a complaint asking OSHA to inspect their workplace if they believe there is a serious hazard or that their employer is not following OSHA’s rules. OSHA will keep all identities confidential.

• Exercise their rights under the law without retaliation, including reporting an injury or raising health and safety concerns with their employer or OSHA. If a worker has been retaliated against for using their rights, they must file a complaint with OSHA in no more than 30 days.

Source: Occupational Safety and Health Administration

Employers can’t automatically drug-test workers after workplace accidents or reward employees for avoiding accidents, according to new federal rules going into effect soon.

Either policy could discourage workers from reporting injuries and illnesses, a local attorney said.

The fines for breaking those rules are almost doubling, climbing to $12,740 from $7,000 for the first serious citation. Repeat or willful violations will prompt a $127,400 fine, up 82 percent from $70,000.

When the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, announced the changes in May, many people focused on an electronic reporting requirement that doesn’t kick in until next year, said Mark Kittaka, a partner with Barnes & Thornburg. But other significant changes will be enforced sooner, he said.

Ohio employers must comply with the new rules next month, beginning Aug. 10. Indiana, which allows employers a 60-day grace period before adopting federal changes, will start enforcing the rules on Oct. 9.

Kittaka, who heads the firm’s local labor and employment law department, said even some of this colleagues weren’t aware of the lesser-known changes before he started highlighting them.

John Dortch, president and CEO of The Preston Joan Group, a local human resources consulting firm, said many employers require drug or alcohol tests for all workers who have accidents on the job.