In early May of 2016, The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released a new electronic record keeping rule, and some fear that this will leave sensitive data exposed. This new rule requires many employers to report injury and illness data to OSHA electronically. OSHA will be responsible for removing identifying data and to publish it on a searchable database.
The New Regulations
These new electronic reporting requirements will be phased in, starting on January 1, 2017, though certain provisions, including an anti-retaliation provision, will be enforceable starting in August of 2016. Certain employers will be required to send their injury and illness reports to OSHA via the Internet.
The agency may also collect information from employers that do not submit injury and illness data on a regular basis. These employers would have to submit this data to OSHA when requested.
Concerns About Transmission of Data
Although reporting will be submitted to OSHA via a secure, web-based application, if that application were hacked, the personal information of millions could be uncovered before OSHA could remove all of the personal data. Once the injury and illness data is received by OSHA, the agency will remove any personal identifiers and publish it online, in a publicly searchable database, found on OSHA's website. It is this step, and the potential public availability of employer and employee data that raises security concerns. OSHA has said that it will use special software to remove the private employee information, but this software, like any other system, is not infallible. Any sensitive information that makes its way into their software system could potentially become available to hackers and identity thieves.
It is also worrisome that this data would now be accessible and open to interpretation by an employer's competitor and the media. Employers are required to involve the injured employees and their representatives in the new record keeping process, but they may not dictate which information is included in a report.
While these new laws regarding electronic reporting will unlikely affect an individual'sworkers' compensation case, it is important to understand that when an injury occurs, personal information will be transmitted via the Internet. Anyone that has been injured at work may consult with a worker compensation lawyer in Woodstock for further information regarding their rights and benefits that might be available to cover lost wages and medical costs.