As of January 1, employers across the country are required to submit worker injury and illness information electronically to the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration, which then disseminates the information for public view. But a number of employers and business interest groups want to see this new rule scrapped.
A lawsuit filed on January 4 in Oklahoma Federal Court by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Homebuilders, and other plaintiffs alleges the database exceeds the record-keeping authority held by OSHA. Furthermore, the plaintiffs allege their First Amendment rights are being violated by requiring businesses to turn over too much information that should be private.
In Nat’l Ass’n of Home Builders v. Perez, the plaintiffs argue there are “significant concerns” with the requirement that employers offer up detailed injury and illness summaries for public consumption. Specifically, the complaint argues that OSHA doesn’t have the authority to impose the requirements, which expose businesses to “significant reputational harm.” Furthermore, the complaint asserts that this harm is effected without evidence that doing so helps to demonstrably slash workplace injuries and illnesses.
The complainants assert Congress only gave OSHA a limited power to collect and maintain data on worker injuries and illnesses, and this doesn’t include any kind of a mandate that employers turn over information to the public that would potentially violate the constitutional rights of the company or its executives. The lawsuit states that if Congress had intended for OSHA and the U.S. Department to collect these types of detailed reports and turn them over to the public, this would have been outlined specifically by statute. In fact, this was already done once for the Mine Safety and Health Administration.
The future of this requirement is unclear. The lawsuit was filed two weeks before the leadership in OSHA and the Department of Labor who sponsored the new rule exited office and were replaced by the new administration’s appointees. It’s not certain whether the new administrators in these departments are going to fight to keep up these new rules. What we do know is that Donald Trump vowed as a candidate to reduce regulatory burdens and costs shouldered by contractors in numerous business sectors. Whether labor organizations are going to step in also remains to be seen. We do know that the AFL-CIO has offered up strong support of the rule and is weighing the industry’s challenge to determine which actions will or could be taken to defend it.
The purpose of the rule is to compel employers to develop better safety practices and drive down the risk of worker injuries. By making public the injuries workers suffer at individual sites, it’s a means of holding companies accountable. Too often, workers’ compensation cases are not made public, so neither consumers nor fellow workers are aware of the full scope of the risks associated with the products they buy or the places where they work – or a company’s efforts to address these very real concerns.
Another court challenge is pending with regard to the same rule’s limitations on worker drug testing following a work accident.
Contact the Carolina workers’ compensation lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.
Employers Sue OSHA to Stop Posting of Injury, Illness Reports, Jan. 5, 2017, By Bruce Rolfsen, Bloomberg
More Blog Entries:
Report: Farmworker Transportation Still Hazardous, Jan. 11, 2017, Charlotte Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog