With a new government administration, comes a raft of new proposed regulations, and the repealing of old ones. That has been the case with the Trump administration and OSHA regulations.
In May 2016, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) introduced the Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses, which requires companies to electronically submit injury and illness data, which is then made public on the organization's website. This regulation came into effect in 2016 despite a number of lawsuits.
The rules differ slightly for small businesses and enterprises:
Companies with 20-249 employees in certain high-risk industries must submit their 2016 Form 300A (annual summary of illness and injury) by July 1, 2017. From 2019 onwards this date will change to March 2.
Companies with 250 or more employees in relevant industries must also submit the 2017 forms 300A, 300 (log of incidents), and 301 (incident report) by July 1, 2018.
Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA, explained the reasoning: "Our new rule will 'nudge' employers to prevent work injuries to show investors, job seekers, customers and the public they operate safe and well-managed facilities. Access to injury data will also help OSHA better target compliance assistance and enforcement resources, and enable 'big data' researchers to apply their skills to making workplaces safer."
2016 was a busy year for HR compliance departments. There was the introduction of new overtime rules, then the law covering paid sick leave for federal contractors, and then states such as New York, California, and Washington D.C approved legislation to raise the state minimum wage.
In addition to the introduction of new regulations, companies face uncertainty around the updating and repeal of legislation, such as the potential repeal of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), which can make staying compliant a headache.
According to John Anderson, senior director of Product Marketing at Kronos, the 21st century business landscape is defined by continually evolving, complex compliance regulations and that keeping up with these without the right HR solution is a real challenge.
"For many organizations, large and small alike, keeping up with these constant changes with inadequate technology is akin to hitting a moving target with a catapult," he says.
For example, it hasn't been plain sailing in terms of OSHA regulations. Trump repealed two other laws that the Obama administration put in place:
The Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces rule, which limited companies that have recent safety problems to complete for government contracts unless they put measures in place to resolve these problems.
An amendment to the OSHA's its injury and illness recordkeeping regulation that stated that an employer must maintain accurate records of work-related injuries and illnesses on an ongoing basis for five years.
According to Gary Vegh, senior environmental toxicologist at ERA Environmental Management Solutions, the biggest compliance issue with the new regulations is the challenges associated with submission.
"Businesses essentially have two options for submission: use the OSHA website or have software which interacts with the backend of the OSHA database," says Vegh. "The problem with the first option is that OSHA has not released the website yet. There is a scenario that plays out where they release it extremely close to the July 1st and March 2nd deadlines, which will likely result in many businesses being unprepared or non compliant. The more employees at a facility, the harder it is to file."
Kamil Wojewoda, co-founder of Calamari Leave, says that the biggest challenge for small businesses will be collecting all illnesses and sick records from the previous years and converting them to the electronic forms in a CSV format that is accepted by OSHA.
"Many employers with more than 10 employees are required to keep a record of serious work-related injuries and illnesses," says Wojewoda. "The records must be maintained at the work site for at least five years. Each February through April, employers must post a summary of the injuries and illnesses recorded the previous year. OSHA hasn't provided the final CSV data format yet, but employers need the sick and illnesses records to be ready by then."
Vegh believes that electronic reporting for the OSHA injury and illness reports comes down to a variety of factors that all relate to the accuracy and timeliness of the information being fed in and sent out by the HR department.
He says: "HR software helps with both of these components by increasing the quality of information filed to OSHA and by speeding up delivery. Alerts and notices are but one of the ways to achieve these improvements. Usually, sites that have more employees have harder times meeting the required reporting regulations. It's hard for a handful of people in HR to manage thousands of employees. Accordingly, HR software allows for an increase in scope with relation to the overview and management of these situations."
We spoke to some leading HR technology providers to find out how they are making sure that their software provides all the necessary features to help businesses stay compliant with the OSHA regulations.
CakeHR puts more control in the hands of employees by providing a self-service portal that is accessible through a mobile app. This takes the burden off managers to check and record time off requests, improves efficiency, and reduces the likelihood of manual data entry error.
"Employees can request time off (vacation, conference, working from home, etc) or report a sick day through the portal," says Lee Chapman, head of customer success at CakeHR. "Once they submit this, the manager receives an email notification and can check how many days the employee has used and who else is off at the same time. Any changes are automatically updated in the system. This reduces the need for paperwork and manual entry into spreadsheets, where there is room for human error. This is important with the new OSHA regulations, as if data isn't correct companies could receive penalties from the authorities.
"When it comes to these regulations, companies can create an illness report as a CSV file, export this, and upload it to the OSHA compliance website. It's a matter of three clicks."
With Calamari Leave, employers can track different kinds of illnesses separately thanks to configurable absence types, as well as store details about the reason for each illness.
"Calamari's support team helps in importing all the paper requests from the past in order to be ready for the OSHA electronic reporting regulations," says Wojewoda. "Our system provides the reports required to export all the data into an Excel file and import it to OSHA website. When OSHA releases the CSV format we are going to add a dedicated OSHA report in order to make the reporting process simpler."
Kronos is currently analyzing the OSHA regulations for reporting injuries and illnesses to figure out if any extra functionality is needed within its workforce management app.
"We are reviewing the best ways to integrate this new reporting requirement into the Kronos Workforce Central platform and Kronos Workforce Ready HCM suite," says Anderson. "As the global leader in workforce management, organizations throughout the United States and around the world select Kronos as a trusted partner because of our experience with complex and ever-changing labor regulations."
According to Debra Squyres, VP Client Success at Namely, OSHA's new reporting requirements put even more pressure on employers to record workplace injuries and illnesses accurately. Namely time tracking software can help by capturing the information automatically.
Squyres says: "Time off tracking software that captures employee absences and their reasons becomes invaluable when cross-referencing your Forms 300, 300A, and 301. Having the full record, on-demand and reportable, just makes filling out these critically important documents easier."
Planday helps managers become compliant with workplace safety regulations through a variety of features.
"When managers edit the schedule, they can record illness and injury," says Kyra Kuik, head of content at Planday. "At the end of each month, managers can run a Timesheet Report and see who was sick or injured and when. Managers can use that list to check whether or not OSHA forms have been filed for each incident. Copies of OSHA reports can be stored in the appropriate employee file. This gives managers a more complete overview of how their workforce is performing."
Having HR software in place can help you stay on top of the changing regulations, ensuring that your business is compliant in an efficient and effective way. However, choosing the right solution for your business can be a nightmare.
The good news is that GetApp has a number of resources that can help guide you through the process of selecting your HR software:
Our HR Category Leaders , which provides a ranking of the top 25 cloud-based apps in HR software
Reviews of top absence and leave management apps, which will help with specific functionality for these regulations
A handy checklist of what to look for when choosing HR software.
If you're looking for more advice, feel free to get in touch via email at email@example.com or drop us a note in the comments below. If you have any experiences you'd like to share, let us know below as well.
This article was originally published in November 2016 and has been updated.