Companies Say Accessible Information Will Just Help Unions and Lawyers
The federal agency that is supposed to help protect workers wants to delay a requirement that some companies make online reports about on-the-job injuries and illnesses.
The requirement was supposed to go into effect on July 1. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration under former President Barack Obama had planned to post the data online and use it to target enforcement actions and prod companies to be safer. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta wants to push the reporting requirement back until Dec. 1.
The agency “has determined that a further delay of the compliance date is appropriate for the purpose of additional review into questions of law and policy,” OSHA said in a news release.
Jordan Barab, a former acting head of OSHA and now the publisher of Confined Space, said the arguments used by industry groups that oppose the rule are frivolous and that OSHA has the legal authority to create a database about workplace injuries and accidents. He speculated that the Trump administration may try to rewrite part of the rule that bars employers from retaliating against workers who report injuries or illnesses.
The requirement applies to workplaces with 250 employees or more that already have to keep records for OSHA. Workplaces with at least 20 employees in areas such as agriculture, construction and manufacturing also have to submit some information.
Many employers are already required to keep logs of the injuries and illnesses and must provide those records to OSHA if requested during an inspection. Fatalities, hospitalizations, amputations and employees who lose eyes are already required to be reported.
The request for a delay comes after industry groups, including the National Association of Home Builders and the National Chicken Council, asked that the rule be stalled. Two lawsuits have also been filed in federal court challenging the rule.
“Posting safety records online will provide unions and trial attorneys with information that can be taken out of context and used in organizing campaigns, or form the basis of lawsuits,” said Neil Bradley, senior vice president of the Chamber of Commerce of the United States of America.
People have until July 13 to comment on OSHA’s request to stall the requirement.
The website to report injuries and illnesses was supposed to be functioning by February, but Trump’s Labor Department hasn’t done this. OSHA now expects to launch the data collection system by Aug. 1.
Featured Photo: Eleven workers died and 17 sustained serious injuries in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion and fire. Video grab from Channel 5 Broadcasting Ltd.