OSHA Plans to Scale Back Workplace Illness and Injury Reporting Requirements

OSHA Plans to Scale Back Workplace Illness and Injury Reporting Requirements

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration of the US Department of Labor has issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that “would amend OSHA’s recordkeeping regulation by rescinding the requirement for establishments with 250 or more employees to electronically submit information from OSHA Forms 300 and 301”:

OSHA is amending its recordkeeping regulations to protect sensitive worker information from potential disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). OSHA has preliminarily determined that the risk of disclosure of this information, the costs to OSHA of collecting and using the information, and the reporting burden on employers are unjustified given the uncertain benefits of collecting the information. OSHA believes that this proposal maintains safety and health protections for workers while also reducing the burden to employers of complying with the current rule.

OSHA illness, injury, and fatality reporting rules was introduced under the Obama administration in 2014 and 2016, requiring employers to report work-related fatalities and severe injuries to the administration and later to electronically submit injury and illness information to OSHA annually. The new administration’s rationale for the regulatory change is that “the electronic collection of case-specific forms … adds uncertain enforcement value, but poses a potential privacy risk under FOIA,” the notice states.

The deadline for covered employers to electronically submit information from OSHA Forms 300 and 301 for the year 2017 was July 1, 2018, but the administration says it “will not enforce this deadline without further notice while this rulemaking is underway.” The 2016 rule instituting new reporting requirements also forbids employers from retaliating or discriminating against employees for reporting a work-related injury or illness, and required them to inform employees of their right to report without fear of retaliation; the notice does not address that aspect of the regulation.

This proposed rule change is one of several steps the Labor Department has taken under the Trump administration to relax OSHA’s reporting requirements and enforcement activities, which businesses said had became excessively burdensome under the previous administration. In early 2017, the agency stopped publishing the fines it issues to employers for violations, and later last year it began reducing the amount of information it published about workplace fatalities. Employer groups had complained that these practices, adopted by the Obama administration, unfairly damaged the reputations of organizations based on alleged violations that had either not yet been fully investigated or had already been resolved.