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The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued a final rule eliminating the requirement for establishments with 250 or more employees to electronically submit information from certain OSHA forms to prevent personal information of injured employees from being publicly released.
The agency will not require employers to electronically submit OSHA Form 300 – Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses – and OSHA Form 301 – Injury and Illness Incident Report – to the agency each year, but these establishments are still required to electronically submit information OSHA Form 300A – Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses, according to an agency statement on Thursday.
“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,” the agency said in its statement. “This rule will better protect personally identifiable information or data that could be re-identified with a particular worker by removing the requirement for covered employers to submit their information from Forms 300 and 301. The final rule does not alter an employer’s duty to maintain OSHA Forms 300 and 301 onsite, and OSHA will continue to obtain these forms as needed through inspections and enforcement actions.”
The rule will allow OSHA to focus its resources on “useful” initiatives such as the continued use of information from severe injury reports that helps target areas of concern and to fully utilize a large volume of data from Form 300A rather than collecting and processing information from Forms 300 and 301 with uncertain value for OSHA enforcement and compliance assistance, according to the agency.
The agency is also amending the record-keeping regulation to require covered employers to electronically submit their employer identification number with their information from Form 300A, which the agency said will make the data more useful for OSHA and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and could reduce duplicative reporting burdens on employers in the future.
“OSHA has determined that this final rule will allow OSHA to improve enforcement targeting and compliance assistance, protect worker privacy and safety, and decrease burden on employers,” the agency stated.
In July 2018, OSHA released the proposal to amend the 2017 electronic record-keeping regulation by rescinding the requirement for establishments with 250 or more employees to electronically submit information from OSHA forms 300 and 301 while still requiring them to submit information from their Form 300A summaries. But employers and their representatives expressed frustration with the rule as proposed by the agency because it did not rescind the agency’s plan to publish employer information, nor did it reconsider controversial language dissuading employers from implementing employee incentive programs and post-incident drug testing requirements that OSHA has argued could constitute retaliation against injured workers or discourage these employees from reporting their injuries. The agency did issue a memorandum in October clarifying that the rule does not prohibit employers from establishing workplace safety incentive programs, which can reward employees with prizes such as pizza parties for no injuries over set periods of time, or post-incident drug testing. But many in the employer community felt the memorandum added to the confusion over the validity of such programs and wanted the agency to formally repeal the provisions.
Collection of calendar year 2018 information from OSHA Form 300A began on Jan. 2, ahead of a March 2 deadline, according to the agency.
“By rolling back the requirements for companies to report serious work-related injuries and illnesses that occur in their workplaces, the Trump administration is weakening our ability to identify and address issues that threaten the lives and livelihoods of workers and their families,” Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Virginia, and chair of the House of Representatives Committee on Education and Labor, said in a statement on Thursday. “It is notable that despite the many important issues being neglected during this partial government shutdown, the administration found time to finalize a rule that shields employers from accountability for the health and safety of their employees.”
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s proposal to roll back parts of its electronic record-keeping rule to protect sensitive employee information drew mixed reactions from workplace safety experts.