The Trump administration has suspended an Obama-era rule requiring companies to post their worker injury and illness data on a government website, fueling concerns that it is trying to ignore the regulation.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced earlier this week that it is “not accepting electronic submissions of injury and illness logs at this time” and it intends to propose extending the July 1 deadline for roughly 450,000 companies to comply with the rule.
A spokeswoman told The Washington Post that OSHA delayed the rule to address employers’ “concerns about meeting their reporting obligations” in time.
But according to The Center for Investigative Reporting, worker safety advocates are concerned the potential delay — one of the first major moves since Labor Secretary R. Alexander Acosta took office on May 5 — “will strip workers of protections and allow companies to dodge accountability.”
“Acosta is weighing in on the side of big corporate lobbyists and not on the side of workers in dangerous industries,” said Deborah Berkowitz, senior fellow with the National Employment Law Project and a former senior policy adviser at OSHA under President Barack Obama. “OSHA won’t be able to target the most dangerous workplaces because they won’t have the data.”
The Center previously reported that Acosta had not allowed OSHA to launch the website to which employers are supposed to submit their data.
The rule is intended to encourage employers to improve their injury rates, allow workers to understand the risks associated with their workplaces, and help federal investigators prioritize investigations. Companies have been required to maintain worker injury and illness logs since 1971.
“Not having this data [electronically available] increases the likelihood that workers will be injured. In addition to needless human suffering, that’s a cost to our economy overall,” David Levine, chief executive of the American Sustainable Business Council, told the Post.
But the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Home Builders, and other industry groups have sued to block the rule, arguing it would force employers to disclose private information.