Despite being shut down during the partial federal government shutdown, the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) last week approved OSHA’s final Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses rule. What are the details? The public doesn’t know and will not know until the rule can be published in the Federal Register, which is closed for business during the shutdown.

Unusually fast approval

Jordan Barab, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor at OSHA, expressed surprise at the speed with which the approval occurred in his blog, Confined Spaces.

“…Last month, OSHA rushed the regulation over to OIRA months ahead of schedule for its (normally) three-month review,” Barab writes. OSHA had proposed dropping the requirement that certain employers to send detailed information on injuries and illnesses into OSHA on an annual basis.”

Barab notes that the OIRA review was finishing in just six weeks, half the allocated time - “despite the fact that the agency that was doing the review was supposedly shut down for four of those six weeks.”

No meeting with union

OIRA did not schedule or respond to a request by the AFL-CIO for a so-called “12866 meeting” – something authorized under Executive Order 12866 (which governs OIRA review of regulations) “in order to ensure greater openness, accessibility, and accountability in the regulatory review process.”

As to the lack of publication, Barab points out that previous practice when there was a Federal Register delay was for OSHA to publish the “unofficial” draft of a rule on its website, in the interest of transparency.

What might be in the rule?

The requirement that detailed information on OSHA Forms 300 and 301 be sent to OSHA has likely been eliminated, according to Barab, who believes the short review time makes it probable that the final regulation looks very much like the proposal.

Why the hurry? Possibly so that the rule was approved before the March 2 deadline for employers to send the 300 and 301 information to OSHA. The speed of the process may also have had to do with a legal defeat OSHA suffered a few weeks ago, when a court found that Public Citizen had grounds for suing the agency for violating of the Administrative Procedures Act.

Barab discusses that and the Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses rule in more detail in his blog post. Click here to read it.