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6 States Sue OSHA for Recordkeeping Rollback

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

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Six states filed a lawsuit in federal court last week against the Occupational Safety and Health Administration alleging that the entity’s reversal on the Obama-era electronic recordkeeping rule was “illegal and unjustified” and hurts workers in the long run.

The Rule

In January, the U.S. Department of Labor reported that it had issued a final rule on the “Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses” rule, which rolled back portions of the requirement to “better protect personally identifiable information or data that could be re-identified with a particular worker.”

Ed Brown, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Six states filed a lawsuit in federal court last week against the Occupational Safety and Health Administration alleging that the entity’s reversal on the Obama-era electronic recordkeeping rule was “illegal and unjustified” and hurts workers in the long run.

The rule rolled back the requirement for establishments with 250 or more employees to electronically submit information from OSHA Form 300 (Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses) and OSHA Form 301 (Injury and Illness Incident Report) to OSHA each year.

These establishments are still required to electronically submit information from OSHA Form 300A (Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses), however.

The agency proposed the rule in July 2018, saying it believed it “maintains safety and health protections for workers, protects privacy and reduces the burdens of complying with the current rule."

The proposal also noted at the time, though, that the most recent deadline (for calendar year 2017) for Forms 300 and 301 information was July 1. The agency said that it would not enforce the deadlines for those forms until further notice, while the rulemaking is underway.

Lawsuits

That decision, to not enforce the deadline for those forms, sparked a lawsuit from Public Citizen, the American Public Health Association and the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists.

The group said that they had been intending to use the data from those other forms in their research and advocacy efforts after OSHA collected it, and argued that by not enforcing the deadline while the rule was still active, OSHA violated the Administrative Procedure Act and asked the court to require OSHA lift its suspension of the deadlines.

© iStock.com / patrickbanks

The rule rolled back the requirement for establishments with 250 or more employees to electronically submit information from OSHA Form 300 (Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses) and OSHA Form 301 (Injury and Illness Incident Report) to OSHA each year.

The Trump administration motioned to dismiss that litigation, which was denied by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in December 2018.

According to Business Insurance, if the groups are successful against OSHA in the lawsuit, the court could declare the earlier suspension unlawful and require OSHA to recognize the July 2018 submission deadline for the 2017 information.

Now, in a 31-page joint lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, with New Jersey as the head plaintiff, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota and New York are seeking an injunction against Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta, Loren Sweatt, acting assistant secretary of labor for OSHA, the DOL and OSHA.

The states argue that the administration didn’t sufficiently explain its “about face” on the regulation and that its statement about protecting privacy is unfounded.

“Suddenly, OSHA claimed that reporting of detailed workplace injury and illness information would not do much good, but it failed to adequately consider the benefits to states, employers, workers and researchers that it had laid out in detail in 2016,” the suit states.

“And just as suddenly, OSHA now asserted that collection and disclosure of this information would undermine worker privacy, despite the ways the agency had already planned to address these concerns. Although many commenters—including some of the Plaintiff States—highlighted these fundamental flaws, OSHA dismissed them out of hand.”

OSHA has declined to comment on the suit.

   

Tagged categories: Accidents; Department of Labor; Good Technical Practice; Health and safety; Lawsuits; North America; OSHA; OSHA; Regulations; Safety

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