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OSHA rule aims to improve injury reporting policies

There are numerous state and federal regulations that employers in Texas and around the country must abide by, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration began enforcing a new one on Dec. 1, 2016. OSHA uses workplace accident and injury data to identify areas of concern and develop strategies to address them, and it is crucial that this information accurately reflects what is going on in workplaces around the country.

The new OSHA rule addresses company policies that could deter employees from reporting workplace injuries or punish them for doing so. Federal and state regulations call for certain workers, such as pilots or railroad engineers, to be tested for drug use after an accident, but many companies have far more sweeping drug testing policies in place. Under the new rule, employers are only able to order these tests when they reasonably believe that drug use may have contributed to a workplace injury accident.

OSHA's latest reporting rule also takes aim at company incentive programs that reward employees who avoid injury or discourage workers from reporting accidents. The federal workplace safety watchdog says that incentive plans should be written to encourage the reporting of unsafe conditions in the workplace and reward workers who take a proactive approach to safety by attending training seminars or joining workplace safety committees.

In addition to falling foul of OSHA safety regulations, employers risk being sued by injured workers when accidents or injuries are caused as a direct result of company policies. Injured workers generally seek financial assistance by filing a workers' compensation claim, but attorneys with experience in this area may sometimes suggest they pursue remedies in civil court instead. Employers are expected to take all reasonable steps to protect their workers from harm, and they could face litigation when policies that deter workers from reporting their injuries could be viewed as willfully malicious.

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