Thirty-four Congressional Democrats are calling for the reinstatement of the original Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses rule published on May 12, 2016, which required companies with 250 or more employees to electronically submit OSHA forms 300 (Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses) and 301 (Injury and Illness Incident Report) each year.
The Trump administration’s final rule, which was published during the government shutdown, only requires employers to submit a 300A – a summary of work-related injuries and illnesses. OSHA said that the 300A submission will provide the agency with “ample data that it will continue seeking to fully utilize.”
Employers must still maintain forms 300 and 301.
In a letter sent to Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta last week, the lawmakers say the final rule “endangers worker protections and undermines hard-fought gains. Until 2016 – when the rule was enacted – most workplace injury records were difficult for many workers to obtain and inaccessible to researchers and the public. At that time, workers in many of our most dangerous injuries did not have the necessary information to protect themselves against dangers in the workplace – and the Administration’s reversal risks putting them back in this same situation.”
“These forms provide critical information on the safety level of workplaces, including accidents, injuries, illnesses and deaths.”
OSHA cited concerns over worker privacy as the reason for the change. “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),” the agency said in a statement. “This rule will better protect personally identifiable information or data that could be re-identified with a particular worker.”
The lawmakers dismissed that argument, noting that the original final rule “did not require employers to send the personal information of any individual, and any information that OSHA may possess is confidential and, as such, cannot be obtained under Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.”
The letter added that failing to collect the information from forms 300 and 301 would deny data to outside organizations and researchers who are focused on finding solutions to occupational safety and health problems.
“The pervasiveness of preventable workplace-related injuries and deaths in our country is unacceptable, and we must make improving worker safety an urgent national priority.”
Jordan Barab, who served under Michaels as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor at OSHA, said in a blog post that the deletion of the requirement “is the business community’s continuing effort to ensure that the public has as little information as possible about workplace injuries and illnesses — and why they happen — in American workplaces.”
States, groups take legal action
Earlier this month, New Jersey, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota and New York filed a legal action against Acosta and Acting Asst. Secretary of Labor Loren Sweatt seeking “injunctive relief” against for their “illegal and unjustified attempt” to roll back the requirement, which they said provides “information that allows states to better design enforcement, outreach, and training programs to improve workplace safety, and enables employees to protect themselves from risks at work.”
Additionally, advocacy groups Public Citizen, along with the American Public Health Association and the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists filed a suit over the rollback, saying that OSHA “failed to provide a reasoned explanation” for its decision to reverse the requirement.
“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.