Under OSHA’s injury and illness reporting rule entitled “Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses,” employers with 250 or more employees and certain employers in high-risk industries with 20 or more employees were required to electronically submit their 2016 summary report of all injuries and illnesses electronically to OSHA by December 31, 2017. The rule provides that OSHA would make the data public to encourage employers to prevent workplace injuries and illnesses and to enable research into workplace safety.
In October, November, and December 2017, Public Citizen submitted Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for the summary injury and illness records submitted to OSHA under the rule. OSHA denied Public Citizen’s October and November requests. It stated that it had identified 23,461 records that are responsive, but it claims that they are exempt from FOIA because their release would “disclose OSHA’s techniques and procedures for law enforcement investigations.” Public Citizen appealed, arguing that the records are not exempt from FOIA because they were not compiled for law enforcement purposes, the release of the records would not disclose techniques and procedures for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions, and disclosure of the records could not reasonably be expected to risk circumvention of the law. After OSHA did not respond to the appeal or to Public Citizen’s December FOIA request, Public Citizen filed suit seeking disclosure of the requested records.