OSHA Agrees to Release Data in Response to Public Citizen Lawsuit
- Thirteen The number of years that the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) had been releasing work-related fatality, injury, and illness data before refusing requests for the records under claims of confidentiality.
- 237,000 The number of employers whose data on work-related fatality, injury, or illness was included in the recently disclosed records.
Injury and illness reporting is crucial to holding employers accountable for hazardous workplaces. OSHA’s various attempts to reverse the rule, stop collecting data and hide data from the public show that the Trump administration places industry interests ahead of worker safety.Dr. Michael Carome, director of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group.
In 2017, Public Citizen requested the release of work-related injury and illness data (Form 300A data) collected by the OSHA pursuant to a rule entitled “Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses” (the Electronic Reporting Rule). OSHA refused to disclose the data, claiming that it was confidential commercial information exempt from disclosure under FOIA exemption 4.
Public Citizen sued OSHA, pointing out that the law requires employers to post the entire Form 300A – which includes the employer’s latest fatality, illness, and injury records – for three months in a visible place at the worksite and to provide copies within one business day of a request by any employee, former employee, employee representative, or personal representative. The law also places no restriction on dissemination of the information once it is posted or provided. Moreover, when it issued the Electronic Reporting Rule in 2016, OSHA promised that it would make the information immediately available to the public in a searchable online database.
In June 2020, the magistrate judge recommended that the court enter judgment for Public Citizen, finding that the records were not confidential. The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia entered an order in July requiring that OSHA produce the requested records in full.
Winning this lawsuit was an unqualified victory for Public Citizen, workers, and advocates fighting for safer and healthier workplaces. OSHA’s data is used by groups like Public Citizen to hold employers accountable and push for occupational health and safety reforms.