April 28, 2015

Texas Democrat Renews Push For Injury Logs Covering Multi-Employer Sites

A House Democrat from the Houston area has re-introduced legislation mandating that OSHA require logs of workplace injuries across the entirety of multi-employer work sites, regardless of whether a contractor or other type of temporary staffing company directly employs the workers as opposed to the site-controlling employer.

Rep. Gene Green, the bill’s longtime sponsor, tells Inside OSHA Online the measure grows out of concern that even if contractors or temporary staffing firms are required to report such injuries, that information does not provide a full data picture of the injuries and illnesses incurred on a specific work site where several companies could be involved — including the owner or manager that runs the operations.

Industry sharply criticizes the proposal, saying it would create a system of redundant and possibly inaccurate data, as all the employers already fall under statutory and legal requirements to report injuries.

Green says he first introduced the bill after the disaster at BP Texas City, which is not located in his district but that took the life of one of his constituents. The accident revealed data gaps in that there was no site-specific log that would help determine hazards in a workplace with multiple employers, he says. “I’ve introduced this for a number of Congresses,” he says (see related story). “When I looked at the job site safety issues [it was found that] if you work for a contractor, it didn’t show up on that site.” It showed up on the contractor’s own OSHA logs, he notes, but existing practices did not make clear that “you also work at the direction of the company that owns that plant” and “we’ve had X number of incidents here.”

The congressman says he has spoken extensively with the United Steelworkers regarding the issue, but concedes that the proposal is unlikely to garner support from industry. The bill was originally wrapped into comprehensive Democratic-sponsored OSHA reform legislation early in the Obama administration that never made it past the House.

Green says he believes all injuries on the site should be compiled on one log because even if the injured worker is employed by another company than the site-controlling employer, “they’re also working under the authority of the owner or manager of the plant.” He says that would help OSHA and employers alike identify areas of concern, likening the concept to police setting up more speed traps in specific places where there have been high incidences of speeding. He says “it may be double-counting” but he still wants to see site-wide logs required under law.

Green’s bill requires that not later than 180 days after enactment, the Secretary of Labor shall revise the regulations in part 1904 of title 29, Code of Federal Regulations, “to require site-controlling employers to keep a site log for all recordable injuries and illnesses occurring among all employees on the particular site, whether such employees are employed directly by the site-controlling employer or are employed by contractors or temporary help or employee leasing services.”

The bill states that the term “site-controlling employer” in the bill “means the employer that has primary control over the work on a particular work site and supervises the employees on a day-to-day basis on a particular work site.”

An industry attorney bristles at the idea of OSHA creating another log to cover all incidents on multi-employer sites. “This bill interferes with contractual provisions that may relegate the responsibility for such recordation to employers other than the site-controlling employers,” the source says. “It also ignores the realities of some workplaces where the response to workplace injuries suffered by temporary employees is not in the hands of the site-controlling employer.”

“To the extent another employer is responsible for following up with the injured employee and updating his injury status, the type of log envisioned by this bill would be both redundant and inaccurate,” the lawyer adds.

Green, who does not serve on the Education and the Workforce Committee where the bill has been referred, acknowledges it would be an uphill climb to eventually get the legislation moving. “The last three Congresses now haven’t been sympathetic to worker rights,” he says. “I introduced it as a Democrat when we were in charge.”

The representative says he strongly favors the presence of large employers, including petrochemical facilities, in his district, but the benefits they provide must be balanced with safety concerns. “I like having those jobs but I also want them to be as safe as possible for them and the families,” he says. — Christopher Cole ()


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