The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, February 22, 2019

Detailed workplace injury reports are deleted

By The Building Tradesman

WASHINGTON - Apparently one of the "essential functions" of the federal government that didn't close during the 35-day shutdown in December and January was to go through the process of tossing out U.S. workplace rules that required most U.S. employers to electronically submit detailed reports of all workplace injuries to the Department of Labor each year.

Those reporting requirements were put in place in 2016 during the Obama Administration to help researchers get accurate data on how, and how often workers are injured each year. But the business community hated the additional reporting requirements for purportedly being too costly and burdensome. The rules had never been implemented because they were tied up in the courts. 

The Obama-era rule would have no longer required employers with more than 250 employees to file detailed reports on work-related injuries and illnesses to OSHA. Such reporting helps academic researchers and federal agencies like OSHA, NIOSH and the Center for Disease Control to take action to address and study hazards in the workplace. 

According to the Labor Press, the Trump administration modified the rule in 2017 so employers would only have to provide summaries of job injuries. And then during the shutdown, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) - hamstrung by the loss of two-thirds of its staff - fast-tracked the new rule before any industry review or public comment was allowed.

“The process was totally opaque, not transparent, and clearly rushed,” AFL-CIO Safety and Health Director Peg Seminario told Vox. “The only reason this was rushed through was because the Trump administration wanted to relieve employers of having to report their injury data."

"I was surprised and disturbed to see that review of deregulatory actions is apparently considered an essential function, but involving the public in this process is not,” Seminario wrote in an email to the OMB.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration claimed that collecting detailed reports of injuries would violate workers’ privacy, but the AFL-CIO said other federal agencies collect similar information, and the government isn't allowed to share confidential information in the reports, anyway. Three public-health groups filed a lawsuit later that day to block the revised rule.

Newly sworn-in rookie Congressman Andy Levin (D-Warren), and vice chair of the House Education and Labor Committee introduced his first bill as a Member of Congress, which would reverse the Trump administration reporting rule.

“Every policy decision I make as a member of Congress is about raising the standard of living for working people," Levin said. “The new Trump administration rule does exactly the opposite by weakening protections for workers who get injured on the job. I’m introducing a Congressional Review Act resolution to reject this new attack on working Americans and restore these critical reporting requirements.”