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Steel trade group rips OSHA injury proposal

Keywords: Tags  steel, Steel Manufacturers Association, SMA, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, OSHA, Philip K. Bell, Adam Parr, injury tracking workplace safety

NEW YORK — Philip K. Bell, president of the Steel Manufacturers Association (SMA), is putting officials at the U.S. Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) on notice that "negative consequences" are likely to result if the watchdog agency adopts a proposed rule regarding tracking of workplace injuries and illnesses.

Bell urged OSHA to withdraw the proposed rule, which was issued in November (, Nov. 12), in a four-page letter to the agency dated March 7.

"Of significant concern is the public release of information (employee hours worked) that companies treat as confidential commercial information," Bell wrote in the letter, which was seen by AMM. He noted that OSHA has historically treated employee hours worked as confidential commercial information.

"Additionally, SMA is concerned with the release of employee personally identifiable information and the potential misuse of raw injury and illness data by third parties," he added.

"Simply redacting an employee’s name from the various OSHA recordkeeping forms in no way assures that employee privacy will be protected," the Washington-based trade association said in the letter.

The concerns center on outsiders, such as lawyers and labor organizers, using the data to pursue injury suits or target unionization efforts, one manufacturing executive told AMM.

"The proposed rule change is a major concern for SMA and many others," SMA vice president of policy and communications Adam Parr told AMM. "It has the potential to harm business and company reputations without providing a discernible safety benefit."

A possible record-keeping rule change has been discussed for several years, Parr noted, but said the SMA was "still disappointed" when this proposed rule was issued in November.

Since then, the SMA has worked the issue independently, as well as through coalition efforts with the National Association of Manufacturers and other parties, he said.

Asked when a final rule would be published, Parr stopped short of pinpointing a firm date. "OSHA will probably take a few months to review comments and then decide how to proceed. So, mid-2014—at the earliest—with a compliance deadline down the road and the potential for legal challenges."

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