OSHA Rule Aims to Protect Privacy, Simplify Compliance

14 May, 2019 Nancy Grover

                               

Washington, DC (WorkersCompenstion.com) - Employers will no longer be required to include workers’ social security numbers on certain records. That’s among the changes to OSHA’s recordkeeping, general industry, maritime, and construction standards.

The agency issued its fourth final rule under its Standards Improvement Project, which is part of the government’s effort to streamline and simplify government regulations. The changes were initially proposed in 2016.

SSNs

As of 2007, the government has required all federal agencies to identify areas where SSNs are collected unnecessarily. “Recognizing the seriousness of the threat of identity theft and the availability of other methods for tracking employees for research purposes, if needed, OSHA examined the SSN collection requirements in its standards,” the rule states. “Based on this review, OSHA proposed … removing all requirements in its standards to include employee SSNs on exposure monitoring, medical surveillance, or other records in order to facilitate employers’ efforts to safeguard employee privacy.”

For existing records, the agency said employers “are expected to continue handling previously generated records that contain SSNs as they currently do. Employers are not required to delete employee SSNs from existing records, nor are employers required to include an alternative unique employee identifier on those records.  OSHA is not mandating a specific type of identification method that employers should use on newly-created records, but is instead providing employers with the flexibility to develop a system that best works for their unique situations."

The Changes

Among the addition revisions are: 

  • Update the consensus standard incorporated by reference for signs and devices used to protect workers near automobile traffic
  • Revise the requirements for roll-over protective structures to comply with current consensus standards
  • Reduce the number of necessary employee x-rays
  • Update storage of digital x-rays
  • Update the requirements for pulmonary function testing
  • Update the method of calling emergency services to allow for use of current technology

While 14 provisions are affected by the rule, OSHA declined to take action on proposed revisions to other standards for various reasons. Included are the lockout/tagout general industry standard, personal protective equipment fit in construction, the excavation construction standard, and the decompression tables in the underground construction standard. 

“OSHA received requests for a hearing on the proposal regarding the lockout/tagout standard from some commenters that were opposed to that proposal,” the agency noted. “In light of the information provided by the comments, OSHA is not in a position at this time to make a final decision on this issue.”

Costs

While some of the changes will add costs, the rule is expected to save regulated entities money overall. “The agency estimates that one revision (updating the method of identifying and calling emergency medical services) may increase construction employers’ combined costs by about $32,000 per year while two provisions (reduction in the number of necessary employee x-rays and elimination of posting requirements for residential construction employers) provide estimated combined cost savings of $6.1 million annually,” OSHA explained.

 

 


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    About The Author

    • Nancy Grover

      Nancy Grover is a freelance writer having recently retired as the Director, Media Services for WorkersCompensation.com. She comes to our company with more than 35 years as a broadcast journalist and communications consultant. Grover’s specialties include insurance, workers’ compensation, financial services, substance abuse, healthcare and disability. For 12 years she served as the Program Chair of the National Workers’ Compensation and Disability Conference® & Expo. A journalism/speech graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University, Grover also holds an MBA from Palm Beach Atlantic University.

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