In January, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a new rule that lessens required workplace injury and illness reporting for many businesses. Under the Obama administration, OSHA began requiring businesses with at least 250 employees to electronically submit reports detailing each of these injuries and illnesses. The new rule removes that requirement.
The safety agency contends that it’s making this change to protect sensitive information about workers from being disclosed. In a statement, OSHA said, “By preventing routine government collection of information that may be quite sensitive, including descriptions of workers’ injuries and body parts affected, OSHA is avoiding the risk that such information might be publicly disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act.” It also noted that this reporting change would “decrease [the] burden on employers.”
Six states are challenging this change in policy in court. Pennsylvania hasn’t joined that fight. However, New Jersey and New York are among those six states. The state attorneys general (AGs) argue that privacy concerns were addressed when the electronic reporting requirement was put in place in 2016. They also note that the required forms don’t contain information that could identify specific workers. They’re asking the U.S. District Court where they filed their lawsuit to vacate the new rule.
The AGs contend that this information is “an essential tool” in minimizing workplace-related injuries and illnesses. As one AG said, “This rollback will make workplaces more dangerous and result in more workers being hurt on the job.”
It should be noted that the new rule doesn’t relieve employers with at least 250 workers of their responsibility for completing the required incident forms and logs and keeping them at their sites. They also need to be made available if and when OSHA inspectors request them. Further, these employers are still required to electronically submit summaries of employee injuries and work-related illnesses, but without the previously required details related to specific workers.
While OSHA reporting requirements can change for a variety of reasons — sometimes based on who is in the White House — businesses still owe their employees a safe working environment. If an employer fails to provide necessary protections, it’s essential that employees and their families know what options they have for seeking necessary compensation.