Blue States Fight Rollback of Workplace Injury Reports

WASHINGTON (CN) – Calling the policy change illegal and unjustified, six Democratic-led states brought a federal lawsuit Wednesday challenging the Trump administration’s move to no longer require businesses to submit workplace injury disclosure forms to the federal government.

(AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

In a 31-page lawsuit filed in Washington, D.C., federal court, attorneys general from New Jersey, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota and New York claim the administration did not properly explain its decision to no longer require certain companies to file with the federal government details about injuries their workers suffered on the job.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration in 2016 implemented a new rule requiring businesses with more than 250 employees to file with the federal government forms giving certain information about workplace injuries. OSHA planned to remove any personal information from the information and publish it in a publicly available database.

In 2018, however, the agency announced it was not accepting two of the forms and would be looking to revise the 2016 rule altogether. It went forward with the formal process to change the rule and on Jan. 25 announced businesses would no longer need to file two of the forms mentioned in the 2016 order.

The states say the administration did this without explaining its reasoning, and went against many comments submitted during the rulemaking process that extolled the importance of the information that was gathered under the 2016 rule.

“In promulgating the 2019 final rule, OSHA did not even come close to justifying its views that the reporting of workplace injuries and illnesses has few benefits to states, workers and researchers, or that it puts workers’ privacy at risk,” the complaint states.

The states argue the information is crucial to researchers and to lawmakers who can use it to evaluate and identify areas for improving workplace safety requirements.

“Detailed and specific information regarding workplace injuries and illnesses and the events surrounding them is necessary for policy makers, program developers and researchers in the plaintiff states to understand the nature and causes of the workplace injuries and illnesses that are occurring and to design their training, outreach and enforcement programs to effectively improve workplace safety and health,” according to the lawsuit.

The challenge is led by New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, who said Wednesday the rollback of the reporting requirements is keeping valuable information away from the public.

“Public reporting of workplace safety information helps states enforce our labor laws, forces employers to remove hazards and empowers workers to demand improvements,” Grewal said in a statement. “Workers deserve that transparency and the federal government should not be trying to take it away.”

A spokeswoman for OSHA declined to comment on the lawsuit.

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