A coalition of advocacy groups have filed a complaint (PDF) with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia over OSHA’s rollback of a provision in its final electronic injury and illness reporting rule, which was issued during the partial government shutdown.

Nonprofit consumer advocacy organization Public Citizen, along with the American Public Health Association and the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists said in the suit that OSHA “failed to provide a reasoned explanation” for its decision to reverse a requirement that certain businesses with 250 or more employees and employers in high-risk industries with 20 or more employees to electronically submit workplace injury and illness records to OSHA.

“The data supplied by the rule is crucial to protecting worker health and safety and facilitating independent research into workplace hazards,” said Public Citizen in a statement.

OSHA said sensitive info at risk

OSHA cited worker privacy as the reason for deleting the requirement: “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 (FOIA). This rule will better protect personally identifiable information or data that could be re-identified with a particular worker by removing the requirement for covered employers to submit their information from Forms 300 and 301.”

Public Citizen dismissed that argument.

“When it issued the electronic reporting rule after an exhaustive process, OSHA concluded that requiring the submission of workplace injury and illness data would greatly enhance worker health and safety. OSHA has now rushed through a new rule drawing exactly the opposite conclusion, but OSHA has failed to provide any good reason for reversing itself,” said Michael Kirkpatrick, the Public Citizen attorney handling the case.

The complaint is based on OSHA’s violation of the Administrative Procedure Act.

It alleges that OSHA’s rollback “is arbitrary and capricious, is not a product of reasoned decision-making, lacks support in the record, fails to adequately respond to public comments opposing it and undermines worker health and safety.”

The plaintiffs are asking the court to mandate that OSHA require and accept electronic reporting rule submissions within 30 days, as required by the 2016 rule.

Read more about the electronic reporting rule:

OSHA eliminates key provision in recordkeeping rule

Injury & illness tracking rule approved - but what's in it?