OSHA Scales Back on Workplace Fatality Reporting

OSHA Scales Back on Workplace Fatality Reporting

Responding to concerns from the US Chamber of Commerce that its previous reporting standards were unfair to employers, the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration has decided to reduce the amount of information it publicizes about fatalities in American workplaces, the Wall Street Journal reports:

The publication of the reports—listing the names, locations, employers and circumstances of people who were reported to OSHA as having died in apparent accidents at work—began early in the Obama administration. Before that, OSHA did compile some information about fatalities, according to former OSHA officials. But they said Obama administration officials made the reports more publicized and included additional information.

Last week, OSHA removed links to reports going back to 2009 from its website. Instead, the agency posted a more limited set of information about U.S. workplace fatalities that resulted in citations for companies dating back to the beginning of the year. An OSHA spokeswoman said the new fatality-data listing respects the privacy of surviving family members because they don’t give out the name of the worker who died.

The Chamber of Commerce and other business groups had objected to the Obama-era administration’s approach on the grounds that publicizing the details of workplace accidents before they could be investigated risked unfairly tainting companies with reputations as unsafe places to work.

The latest change is part of a process of diminishing OSHA’s regulatory role that has been expected and ongoing throughout the Trump administration. A rule established last May, which forbade employers from discriminating against employees for reporting a work-related injury or illness, and required them to inform workers of their right to report without fear of retaliation, came into effect in December after surviving a court challenge, but doubts remain over how strictly the Trump administration will enforce this rule.

After President Donald Trump took office in January, the Labor Department stopped publicizing the fines OSHA issues to violators of its regulations, which had also become a standard practice under the previous administration. At the time, that move was seen as hinting at a rollback of OSHA’s regulatory reach, and this latest decision appears to confirm that the Trump administration is opting for a more light-touch approach to regulating workplace health and safety.