July 25, 2018

OSHA Broke the Law by Refusing Worker Injury and Illness Data

Timely Data Is Needed to Protect Workers From Threats to Health and Safety

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) broke the law by suspending parts of its electronic recordkeeping rule, Public Citizen, the American Public Health Association and the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists said in a lawsuit filed today with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. To help the agency monitor and prevent workplaces injuries and illnesses, the rule requires covered workplaces to submit certain 2017 work-related injury and illness data to the agency by July 1. OSHA recently announced that it would not accept the data.

Instead of following notice-and-comment rulemaking procedures required by the Administrative Procedure Act, OSHA simply announced on its website that it was suspending the July 1 deadline, that it would neither require nor accept the data and that it intended to revise the rule. In the lawsuit, the groups explain that OSHA lacks the legal authority to suspend the deadline without first providing public notice and an opportunity to comment, and that OSHA’s stated reason for the suspension is arbitrary and capricious. The groups are asking the court to order OSHA to require and accept the workplace injury and illness data, as required by the rule.

“The electronic recordkeeping rule is vital to worker safety. OSHA’s turnabout flouts the law and will needlessly harm workers across the country,” said Sean Sherman, a Public Citizen attorney. “Public Citizen and other worker advocacy organizations planned to use OSHA’s data to conduct research on occupational health and safety, analyze the most serious workplace threats and push for stronger regulatory protections.”

In the past, OSHA’s data has been used to prepare reports on the agency’s enforcement actions, draft a comment on OSHA’s workplace beryllium exposure rule and petition the agency for a rule on workplace heat stress. When it issued the electronic recordkeeping rule, OSHA had indicated that the data it collected would be posted online, where it could be accessed and studied by the public.

“Injury and illness reporting requirements provide a fundamental tool to hold employers accountable for hazardous workplaces,” said Shanna Devine, worker health and safety advocate for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. “OSHA’s decision not to accept this data sends a clear message to workers nationwide that the Trump administration places industry appearances before worker safety.”

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