Worksafe Urges Federal OSHA to Reinstate Obama-era Reporting
Worksafe submitted comments to OSHA last week urging the reinstatement of the previous requirements which mandated employers to submit and post electronic records of specific incidents and injuries in the workplace.
These are records employers are already required to maintain. Our comment letter points out that this doesn’t add to their burden, as they’re already required to keep records of injuries and incidents that occur. Keeping that information in a binder on a shelf just delays things and allows for gaps in accountability. Online submission goes a long way towards holding employers accountable to keep their employees safe, allowing employees to respond effectively when they fail to do so, and helping job seekers select employers who prioritize their safety.
This has been proven to increase worker safety. We offered four examples in our letter of how incident reports (when employees were able to get them) have contributed to increased worker safety in the past, from worker leaders being able to bring a body map to Tyson to demonstrate how often workers were injuring their hands, to workers at an auto parts plant demonstrating that individual complaints of rashes over the years added up to a significant problem.
Claimed privacy concerns have a clear answer: technical privacy experts. While employers may have a genuine worry about private information getting released, this is not a valid reason to forgo publicly available reports, as OSHA can easily consult federal digital experts about any privacy concerns.
Employers who discourage their workers from reporting incidents must be penalized. This is a documented phenomenon that will likely increase with the new public transparency unless there are enforceable and strong prohibitions, which we encourage OSHA to undertake as well.
Some who object to this reinstatement suggest that it somehow violates the First Amendment, which has been held to allow government agencies to require companies to disclose information as long as the agency has a good reason and doesn’t “unduly burden” other things the company wants to say. As previously stated, accurate, timely, publicly accessible reporting has been shown to increase worker safety, and it is not a great additional burden to electronically submit information that has already been collected, so this argument can be put to rest.
We were glad to partner on these comments with Democracy Forward, which “uses innovative legal advocacy, expert counsel, and amplification of community voices to fight for a bold & vibrant democracy for all people.” We encourage you to check out the work they are doing and support them in their mission!