OSHA revises electronic recordkeeping rule; Labor groups file suit
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has eliminated the requirement that employers electronically submit Forms 300 (Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses) and 301 (Injury and Illness Incident Report).
OSHA published the revised rules in the Federal Register at the end of January.
The rule still requires certain employers to submit Form 300A electronically every year. This requirement applies to (1) establishments with 250 or more employees; and (2) establishments with 20 to 249 employees in certain designated industries. Those employers must also submit their Employer Identification Numbers.
Employers that are required to submit a Form 300A for 2018 must do so electronically by March 2, 2019.
OSHA said that this rule change was necessary to protect the privacy of workers by preventing “routine government collection of information that may be quite sensitive, including descriptions of workers’ injuries and the body parts affected, and thereby avoid … the risk that such information might be publicly disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) or through the Injury Tracking Application.”
OSHA also commented that the benefit of collecting data from Forms 300 and 301 is uncertain. The agency said it was not able to ensure that personal identifying information would be redacted from employer injury data due to the amount of data it would receive. OSHA said that although it could use software to remove the personal identifying information, such technology isn’t completely effective.
For years, the debate over illness and injury reporting has continued among employers, unions, the administration and OSHA.
Prior to 2017, OSHA required employers to maintain detailed illness and injury logs, but they didn’t have to submit them annually. At that time, the only immediate reports required were those that involved serious injuries and death. For example, a third-degree burn that led to emergency treatment would not be included under the guidelines.
Then, the Obama administration issued its final electronic reporting rule in 2016, mandating that employers send detailed reports annually, beginning in 2017. Unions had been pushing for years for these requirements.
Soon after, a group of manufacturing, steel and construction companies filed suit again the Department of Labor, arguing that the rule was “arbitrary” and “capricious.” That lawsuit is still pending in federal court in Texas.
The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) pushed the latest rule change through quickly during the government shutdown, taking six weeks to go through the process instead of the usual three months. The timing came as a surprise to both union leaders and public health researchers.
After hearing that the rule was moving through quickly, a group of unions requested a meeting with the OMB, which is responsible for reviewing regulations prior to publishing them, to discuss the rule before it was finalized. The unions, which have been fighting for increased reporting for years, allegedly never received a reply.
As soon as the rule was finalized, a group of public health organizations filed suit against the Labor Department, claiming that the rule violates the federal Administrative Procedure Act, which regulates the rule-making process.
The suit argues that OSHA didn’t properly explain the reason for the change and didn’t sufficiently consider the flood of comments that opposed the change.
One of the plaintiffs in the case, the nonprofit Public Citizen, is seeking more detailed injury reporting to help prevent work-related injuries and death.