One advocacy group is suing the Trump administration, claiming the Department of Labor (DOL) and OSHA are illegally withholding records about workplace injuries and illnesses, our colleagues over at OSHA Compliance Advisor wrote this week .
In each of the final three months of 2017, advocacy group Public Citizen submitted Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for records submitted by employers under OSHA’s electronic injury and illness recordkeeping rule. The group says it intended to use the info to conduct research on job safety and health. Public Citizen claims its October and November requests were inappropriately denied.
That recordkeeping rule, finalized in May 2016, required employers with 250 or more employees and employers in some high-risk industries that have 20 or more workers to electronically submit their 2016 300A summary report to OSHA by December 31, 2017. OSHA was then supposed to make the data public to encourage employers to prevent injuries and illnesses and to advance research into workplace safety.
OSHA issued a response explaining why Public Citizen’s FOIA request was denied.
That response, via our colleagues writing for OSHA Compliance Advisor: “As stated in the preamble to the Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses final rule (see 81 FR 29624), OSHA plans to use the establishment-specific data for enforcement targeting purposes. Disclosure of the data before and while it is being used to select establishments for inspection would in turn disclose OSHA’s techniques for law enforcement investigations. Thus, OSHA has determined the data submitted under the electronic reporting requirements are exempt from disclosure while they are being used for enforcement targeting purposes.”
Public Citizen appealed, arguing that the records are not exempt from FOIA because they were not compiled for law enforcement purposes, and that OSHA in its final rule in 2016 stated that it would publicly disclose these records to encourage workplace safety. The advocacy organization’s suit asks the court to find that failure to provide the records is unlawful and to order the DOL and OSHA to provide them.