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OSHA Reporting Website Has Yet to Materialize

Friday, May 12, 2017

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The deadline for many U.S. employers to report workplace injury records under a new electronic recordkeeping rule is about seven weeks away, but one thing is stopping them: The website that they’re required to use to submit information doesn’t exist.

As the Center for Investigative Reporting noted in an article published Tuesday (May 9), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has yet to post the online submission form that’s central to the new Final Rule to Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries. The rule, put in place in May 2016, requires many employers to electronically submit workplace injury and illness data to OSHA.

Laptop
© iStock.com / patrickbanks

Many companies are required to electronically submit workplace injury and illness reports to OSHA by July 1, but as of May 11, the website where they would submit that information still doesn't exist.

While there is legal action pending against the new regulation, a federal judge in Texas said last month that he won’t rule on the case until after the July 1 deadline for injury reporting submissions. Employers are currently on the hook to comply with the rule before the deadline, because the same jurist, Judge Sam Lindsay of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, previously ruled against a preliminary injunction to stop provisions of the rule from taking effect during the legal challenge.

Employers Can’t Comply

OSHA offers forms for recordkeeping on its website, but the page that the agency promised to post so that employers can upload their records isn’t available yet. The main webpage pertaining to recordkeeping, as of Thursday (May 11), says: “OSHA is not accepting electronic submissions of injury and illness logs at this time. Updates will be posted to this webpage when they are available.”

A request sent to an OSHA spokesperson inquiring about the timeline for the submission site going live was not immediately returned Thursday.

Alexander Acosta
U.S. Department of Justice, Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta was confirmed by the Senate on April 27.

David Michaels, who resigned as Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA at the end of the Obama administration in January, told CFIR, “Because the secretary of labor is not allowing OSHA to post this website, it means tens of thousands of employers will be in violation of the law.” Michaels was at the helm of OSHA when the recordkeeping rule was promulgated.

Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta was confirmed by the Senate on April 27. The office of Assistant Secretary for OSHA is currently vacant, with Deputy Assistant Secretary Dorothy Dougherty serving as the agency’s highest-ranking administrator.

OSHA Rules Delayed, Cancelled

A number of new OSHA rules created during the Obama administration have been delayed or even negated since January, when President Donald Trump took office. In early April, Trump signed into law a bill that struck down the so-called “Volks Rule,” which extended the window of time during which an employer could be fined for injury and illness recordkeeping violations.

Similarly, Congress and the president passed legislation in March to negate the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Act, which would have increased scrutiny on federal contractors with regard to past labor, environmental and other violations.

The DOL revealed in April that it was pushing back the enforcement date of its new rule on exposure to respirable crystalline silica, from July to September. And OSHA announced earlier this year that it would delay the effective date of its new rule on beryllium exposure, which now stands at May 20, due to the president’s mandated temporary freeze on new regulations.

About the Rule

Employers required to submit injury reports electronically under the new rule include those with more than 250 employees that are required to keep records of workplace injuries, and those with between 20 and 249 employees that are in certain “high-risk” industries, including construction and manufacturing.

Jobsite safety
© iStock.com / jerry2313

Employers required to submit injury reports electronically under the new rule include large firms and those with between 20 and 249 employees that are in certain “high-risk” industries, including construction and manufacturing.

The rule does not require employers to keep records they were not previously required to maintain, but changes the way the Department of Labor receives and publicizes the information. OSHA says the information collected will be made public, but also holds that no information made public will include personally identifiable information about individuals injured on the job.

The Lawsuit

The pending lawsuit in Texas was brought by a collection of industry groups, including the Associated Builders and Contractors and the National Association of Manufacturers.

“[This] regulation will lead to the unfair and unnecessary public shaming of … businesses,” the NAM said in a statement. “This is a misguided attempt at transparency that sacrifices employee and employer privacy, allows for distribution of proprietary information and creates burdens for all manufacturers.”

According to Lindsay’s April ruling, the plaintiffs in the case have until July 5 to submit a proposed summary judgment briefing, and attorneys for the Labor Department have until the same date to respond to motions to intervene.

   

Tagged categories: Department of Labor; Government; Health and safety; OSHA; President Trump; Regulations; Safety

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