On Wednesday, OSHA suspended the 2016 Final Rule to Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses requiring companies to electronically report their injury and illness records.
Companies have been required to keep injury and illness records since 1971, with high-hazard industries obligated to submit those reports to OSHA beginning in 1995.
Several construction industry groups had challenged the rule that took effect last January, requiring employers to upload their data by July 1, 2017. Their complaint was that companies would not have enough time to electronically submit their data by the July deadline and that the new requirement would put unnecessary strain on those employers.
Other concerns were that the data could be misused by other entities. Randy Johnson, senior vice president for labor, immigration, and employee benefits at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said firms were concerned that information “could be used by unions and others to smear companies.”
Advocates of the rule maintained that by making the illness and injuries of hazardous employment available online to the public, companies that were not taking enough care to keep their workers safe would be outed.
Peg Seminario, the AFL-CIO's director of safety and health, said that the administration's action not only limits what the public can learn about work sites' safety records, but what guidance inspectors have when they decide which establishments to target. “Without this, OSHA is flying blind. because they have no information about workplaces across the country,” Seminario said.
The reason for the rule's suspension according to what OSHA spokeswoman Mandy Kraft said in an email the agency delayed the rule to address employers' “concerns about meeting their reporting obligations” in time.
The rule's suspension may make no real difference anyway. OSHA never launched the website for companies to upload their data and their webpage now reads, "OSHA is not accepting electronic submissions of injury and illness logs at this time, and intends to propose extending the July 1, 2017 date by which certain employers are required to submit the information from their completed 2016 Form 300A electronically. Updates will be posted to this webpage when they are available."