Public Citizen Prevails in Workplace Safety Records Suit Against OSHA

Federal Court Orders OSHA to Provide Data

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Public Citizen prevailed this week in a two-year fight with the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) over access to work-related injury and illness data. A federal court has ordered OSHA to provide Public Citizen with data submitted to the agency by 237,000 employers.

Public Citizen used the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to request the information, which employers record on OSHA Form 300A and submit to the agency electronically pursuant to a rule titled “Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses,” (the Electronic Reporting Rule). Public Citizen sued OSHA to obtain the records after the agency withheld the records in full, claiming that they contained confidential commercial information exempt from disclosure under FOIA.

In June 2020, a magistrate judge recommended that the court enter judgment for Public Citizen, finding that the records are not confidential. OSHA had until July 21 to object to the judge’s recommendation. Rather than object, OSHA agreed to produce the records in full, and the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia entered an order requiring that OSHA produce the requested records by August 18.

“Workplace injury and illness data should not be hidden from public view,” said Michael Kirkpatrick, an attorney with Public Citizen. “Release of Form 300A data, as required under FOIA, will have a significant impact on efforts to protect worker health and safety. The records should provide important information to help researchers identify the causes of work-related injuries and illnesses and develop solutions.”