Public health researchers worry accurate worker safety, injury and health data could be in jeopardy due in part to a deregulation pushed through the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) under the leadership of the Trump administration.
While history will forever remember January 25, 2019 as day 35 of the longest U.S government shutdown in history, watchdog groups like Public Citizen will remember it as the day worker health and safety were jeopardized with the OSHA rollback of the 2016 Obama-era Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses rule.
The deregulation which began with a January 30, 2017 executive order by President Trump placed electronic reporting on hold until the summer of 2018 when the “detailed” injury report requirement was removed from the draft. The final revision of the rule goes into effect on February 25, 2019. It requires employers to annually submit the “summary” report of workplace injuries.
The Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses rule (Obama-era)
The 2016 Obama-era regulation, enacted to monitor and track workplace injury data, required large enterprise employers to provide detailed analyses of individual injury and illness occurrences in the workplace. For every single instance of an injury or illness documented on the summary report, employers were additionally required to submit a detailed summary of each specific injury or illness.
Employers with 250 or more employees, and employers in certain high-risk industries had to electronically submit to the Department of Labor on an annual basis:
- a log of work-related injuries and illnesses (OSHA Form 300)
- an injury and illness report for each occurrence (OSHA Form 301)
- an end of year summary of work-related injuries and illnesses (OSHA Form 300A)
Public health researchers, labor groups and government inspectors rely on this comprehensive and detailed data to devise best safety practices for organizations, and to identify dangerous and hazardous workplace conditions across industries. These same researchers now worry with OSHA’s limited resources for annually inspecting every single job site, that the lack of available data will prohibit opportunities to identify how workplace injuries occur. Subsequently prohibiting opportunities to help businesses prevent workplace fatalities, severe injuries and illnesses.
In defiant opposition to the deregulation, Public Citizen’s Health Research Group, the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists and the American Public Health Association have filed a complaint with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
Trump-era Executive Order to Reduce Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs
While critics see the deregulation as a hazardous and negligent move on the part of the administration, these same critics accuse OMB which exists “to assist the President in meeting his policy, budget, management and regulatory objectives” of pushing the legislation through during the government shutdown in just six weeks with more than half of its employees on furlough. Yet like the administration, OMB views the deregulation under Executive Order 13771 as a means of reducing regulation while also controlling regulatory costs. OSHA estimates this deregulation will net an annualized costs savings of $16 million, or more specifically $8.9 million per year.
Supporters of the deregulation argue that eliminating the annual, electronic submission of the detailed injury and illness report (OSHA Form 301) and an injury and illness report for each occurrence (OSHA Form 301) will not hinder workplace safety and injury data because employers will still be required to maintain the data on-site and will be required to submit the data by request only to OSHA. Detailed reporting is still required for severe injuries. OSHA maintains that these businesses will still be required to collect data. The difference is in how the data is reported.
Furthermore, OSHA also cites the deregulation as a move towards protecting employee privacy by eliminating the routine government collection of information on workers’ injuries , under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Employers will also benefit from this protection of privacy as the new requirement eliminates the submission of the EIN with the company injury reports.
For some employers, this amendment does not affect their current business practices as the changes only affect businesses with 250 or more employees. Under the new rule, large enterprise businesses with employees numbering 250 or more can approach workplace safety data collection like mid-size to smaller business owners with 20 or fewer employees. Critics argue this is yet another instance of the Trump administration delivering on promises to big business groups while hurting the working class.
Many in opposition to the deregulation share concerns with these employers accurately collecting and reporting workplace safety data.
For sources and more information:
Final Rule Issued to Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses
“OSHA’s electronic reporting requirements for employers” Web blog post.* Simply Work Comp Blog. SFM, 1 Feb. 2019. Web. 21 Feb. 2019.
Cordaro, Tressi L. “OSHA’s Revised “Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses Regulation” at OMB for Review.” Web blog post.* OSHA Law Blog. Jackson Lewis, 29 May 2018. Web. 21 Feb. 2019.
Cordaro, Tressi L. “OSHA Issues Final Rule Revising Electronic Recordkeeping Regulation.” Web blog post.* OSHA Law Blog. Jackson Lewis, 24 Jan. 2019. Web. 21 Feb. 2019.
Campbell, Alexia Fernandez. “The White House quietly rolled back workplace safety rules during the shutdown.” Vox. 29 Jan. 2019. Web. 3 Feb. 2019.
Federal Register/Vol. 82, No. 22/Friday, February 3, 2017/Presidential Documents. Executive Order 13771 of January 30, 2017. Government Publishing Office [US]. Web. 21 Feb. 2019.