The United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued a final rule eliminating some electronic injury & illness reporting requirements for facilities employing over 250 workers, as well as facilities in designated high-hazard industries employing between 20 and 249 workers. Under the new rule, published in the 25 February edition of the Federal Register despite the US federal government shutdown, employers of these facilities will no longer be required to electronically submit OSHA Form 300 (Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses) and OSHA Form 301 (Injury and Illness Incident Report) on an annual basis; however they are still required to electronically submit Form 300A (Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses) each year.
OSHA’s stated motivation for the rule change is the protection of workers’ privacy. “By preventing routine government collection of information that may be quite sensitive, including descriptions of workers’ injuries and body parts affected, OSHA is avoiding the risk that such information might be publicly disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act [FOIA]. This rule will better protect personally identifiable information or data that could be re-identified with a particular worker.”
FOIA generally allows citizens the right to request access to federal government records unless the requested records fall under one of nine categories of exemption, one of which is “information involving matters of personal privacy” per the US Department of Health & Human Services. Thus, instead of eliminating reporting requirements, OSHA perhaps could have appealed to have information from Forms 300 and 301 exempted from FOIA requests while still keeping and maintaining the data.
The rollback on reporting requirements has garnered vocal criticism from politicians, labor leaders, and the scientific community. In a statement issued on 24 January, AFL-CIO union director Peg Seminario said the rollback “allows employers to hide their injury records and keep workers, the public and OSHA in the dark about dangerous conditions in American workplaces.” She added, “This backward action flies in the face of recommendations from the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine and the public health community strongly endorsing the collection and use of this injury data for prevention.”
OSHA emphasizes that employers are still required to maintain Form 300 and Form 301 records onsite; removing the reporting requirement is considered deregulatory under Executive Order 13771 and is estimated to save OSHA $16 million per year. The final rule takes effect on 25 February.