Companies and individuals have until the end of September to submit their arguments about proposed changes to Occupational Health and Safety reporting rules.
Released in July, the proposed changes would mean companies will no longer be required to hand over detailed information on employee incidents to the government. The OSHA rule in question was introduced in 2016 and required employers to electronically submit illness and injury data but is now under revision after Secretary of Labor R. Alexander Acosta signaled changes in the Spring.
The rule requires workplaces with 250 or more employees, and those with 20-249 employees in high risk industries like construction and manufacturing, to electronically submit information from OSHA Forms 300 and 301 which are itemized accounts of workplace incidents, illnesses and injuries.
“OSHA is amending its recordkeeping regulations to protect sensitive worker information from potential disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA),” the notice in the Register says.
“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.”
Supporters of the original 2016 rule argue is was designed to give workers more complete information about dangerous work sites and companies that have serious health and safety problems on their record.
The proposed reform would mean less paperwork for employers and less risk that sensitive data might become publicly available. “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.”
The change will mean that forms 300 and 301, which contain details of illness and injury at work, are no longer required. Form 300A, a summary of the detailed information in 300 and 301 would still be required.
But critics of the change say it’s not about protecting sensitive health records, since the information on the forms was always meant to be de-identified before it was published on the OSHA website.
Instead, they say, the change will make it harder for health and safety watchdogs and advocates to know what’s really going on in workplaces.
The Public Citizen Health Research Group, American Public Health Association, and the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists have filed a suit against the agency and the Secretary of Labor over the way the proposed change has been implemented.
In the filing documents, the parties say the change will prevent them from using the data in the forms to create educational resources and learn more about high-risk industries and employers.
The suit, which was filed on July 25, sought to force compliance with the rule because OSHA’s proposed changes had not been made through the usual system of notification and public feedback. The notice in the Federal Register to change the rule was published five days later.
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