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OSHA reporting rule becomes effective

Certain provisions of a reporting rule issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration became effective on Dec. 1, 2016. Louisiana workers should be aware that the rule prohibits employers from retaliating against or preventing employees from reporting their workplace injuries. Employers are required to advise their employees of their right to work in a place free of retaliation.

According to the rule, drug testing that occurs after a workplace accident can be a violation of the anti-retaliation provisions. OSHA considers mandatory drug testing a deterrent to employees reporting injuries if they are concerned about the revelation of drug use not related to the accident. Employers should reasonably suspect that an employee's drug use was a factor in a workplace accident before requiring the employee to undergo the test. Post-accident drug testing can also occur to adhere to state or federal law requirements.

Another feature of the anti-retaliation provisions is that they restrict the scope of employer's safety incentive programs. There is a concern that such programs could deter injury reporting.

Other OSHA rules that became effective on Jan. 1, 2017, compel certain employers to submit their illness and injury data electronically. Businesses that operate in the industries that are covered by the record-keeping regulations and that have 250 or more employees are required to provide data from their 2016 Form 300A no later than July 1, 2017. They are also required to submit their information from all 2017 forms by July 1, 2018.

On-the-job injuries can be financially devastating to the victims and their families. Workers' compensation benefits are designed to ease some of that burden, but some companies attempt to dissuade their employees from filing claims due to a concern over premium increases. This is not allowed under state or federal law, which is why having the assistance of an attorney at the outset of the process might be advisable.

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