Several workplace health and safety groups sued the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), alleging that its new recordkeeping rule goes too far (Public Citizen Health Research Group, et al. v. Acosta, et al., No. 19-cv-166 (D.D.C. Jan. 25, 2019)).
Plaintiffs Public Citizen Health Research Group (HRG), the American Public Health Association (APHA) and Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists (CSTE) have alleged that the rule, which reversed an Obama-era electronic recordkeeping rule, runs afoul of the Administrative Procedure Act.
"OSHA's action, findings, and conclusions are arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, and otherwise not in accordance with law," the plaintiffs said in their complaint. "The Rollback Rule should be declared unlawful and set aside because OSHA has failed to provide a reasoned explanation for its change in position, failed to adequately consider comments submitted in opposition to the change, and relied on considerations that have no sound basis in law."
Employers both large and small may want to monitor this suit as it progresses to ensure their compliance with the most up-to-date OSHA recordkeeping and reporting rules. The change takes effect in less than a month and while courts don't often invalidate federal regulations, eleventh-hour injunctions aren't unheard of.
The electronic recordkeeping rule was enacted "to improve workplace safety and health through the collection and use of timely, establishment-specific injury and illness data" by enforcing specific reporting requirements on businesses employing 250 workers or more. The reversal of the rule means that such businesses are no longer required to report workplace incidents electronically via OSHA Forms 300 and 301.
The original rule also could have put the data reported in these forms in public view. Businesses generally didn't like the idea of this information ending up in the hands of plaintiffs' attorneys, union organizers, competitors and reporters; others, however, said it could have informed valuable workplace safety research. For instance, HRG said in the complaint that it would have used the data from Forms 300 and 301 to conduct workplace health safety research. APHA said would have used the data to create better workplace safety training and education programs, and CSTE would have used it to help it track work-related injuries in partnership with the CDC, among other things.