OSHA Delays Rule That Would Post Company Injury, Illness Data Online

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By Bruce Rolfsen

Employers won’t have to file injury and illness information with OSHA by July 1, the agency announced May 17.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration said it will delay the July 1 filing deadline to a date still to be determined, but didn’t offer a reason for the postponement.

With the filing deadline six weeks away, OSHA had still not opened an online portal for employers to file the numbers from their forms summarizing each workplace’s recordable injury and illness cases and rates for the previous calendar year.

The rule requiring the filing, issued in May 2016, is widely opposed by businesses and some safety consultants because the regulation enables OSHA to post injury and illness data from about 466,000 workplaces with 20 or more employees on the agency’s public website.

The delay is latest piece of OSHA’s electronic recordkeeping rule to be chipped away by the Trump administration. In late January, the agency removed a justification for the rule from its website and the agency is negotiating a potential settlement agreed with groups challenging the regulation.

There are two federal court challenges to the rule, however decisions from either judge aren’t expected before the July 1 deadline.

Transparency Darkens

David Michaels, who championed the reporting rule as OSHA administrator during the Obama administration, said political, not technical, issues led to the delay.

“It’s a step away from transparency and protects dangerous employers,” Michaels told Bloomberg BNA May 17.

When he left OSHA in mid-January, Michaels said, the submission portal was almost complete and he understood development was finished in February. OSHA had been aiming to activate the portal in February.

New Leadership Will Decide

Among the groups challenging the rule in federal court is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Marc Freedman, the Chamber’s executive director of labor law policy, said that at the least, the delay acknowledges the July 1 deadline was no longer a realistic goal.

With no political leadership in place at OSHA to determine the agency’s long-term position on the rule (RIN:1218-AC49), the delay allows the incoming administrators to decide what to do, Freedman said.

The Chamber and other groups have petitioned the Department of Labor to reopen the rulemaking and consider changes, however as of May 17 there hadn’t been a response, Freedman said.

In addition to the posting of the employer data on the OSHA website, the employer groups oppose other provisions of the rule including restrictions of incentive and drug testing programs.

Several unions and worker advocacy groups, including the AFL-CIO and the American Public Health Association, have asked to intervene and defend the rule.

To contact the reporter on this story: Bruce Rolfsen in Washington at BRolfsen@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Connolly at PConnolly@bna.com

For More Information

The rule is available at http://src.bna.com/eSr.

OSHA's electronic recordkeeping website is https://www.osha.gov/recordkeeping/finalrule/index.html.

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