Federal agencies Recordkeeping

Public Citizen, other groups file second lawsuit against rollback of OSHA electronic recordkeeping requirements


Washington — Public Citizen’s Health Research Group is among three public health advocacy groups that have filed another lawsuit against OSHA’s rollback of electronic recordkeeping requirements for worker injury and illness data.

The American Public Health Association and the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists also are listed as plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which seeks to rescind OSHA’s final rule that was issued Jan. 25 despite the most recent partial government shutdown that affected publication of the Federal Register.

The complaint, also filed Jan. 25, asserts that OSHA has not provided “a reasoned explanation for reversing its position regarding the risks and benefits” of its Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses final rule, initially published in May 2016. The lawsuit also states that the agency did not “adequately consider” opposing comments before making its change.

“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,” Public Citizen attorney Michael Kirkpatrick said in a Jan. 25 press release.

“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.”

OSHA now is accepting only Form 300A data – an annual summary of injuries and illnesses – instead of the more detailed Forms 300 and 301 from covered establishments with 250 or more employees or those with 20 to 249 employees in certain industries with historically high occupational injury and illness rates.

OSHA claims its main reason for making the change is protecting workers’ privacy from any inadvertent disclosure of information.

“Although OSHA believes data from Forms 300 and 301 would be exempt from disclosure under [Freedom of Information Act] exemptions, OSHA is concerned that it still could be required by a court to release the data. Many commenters echoed this concern,” the agency states in its final rule.

In May, OSHA first posted on its website that it no longer was requiring submission of 2017 Forms 300 and 301 injury and illness data. The same three groups filed suit contending that action was a violation of the Administrative Procedure Act’s notice-and-comment protocol. The agency formally issued a proposed rule July 30.

OSHA sought dismissal of that lawsuit, which also was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, but the motion was denied Dec. 12.

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