Boston, MA (WorkersCompensation.com) - Attorney General Maura Healey today joined a lawsuit to stop the Trump Administration from reversing an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) rule requiring public reporting of workplace injuries and illnesses.
The lawsuit, filed by a group of six attorneys general today in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against OSHA and the U.S. Department of Labor, challenges an attempt by OSHA to roll back the electronic reporting requirements it issued in a 2016 rule that the Trump Administration now alleges create privacy risks. According to the attorneys general, the Administration's sudden reversal on implementation of the reporting requirement lacks valid rationale and legal basis.
“This rollback will make workplaces more dangerous and result in more workers being hurt on the job,” said AG Healey. “We are challenging this irrational decision by the Trump Administration to protect the health and safety of Massachusetts workers.”
“Data on occupational injuries and fatalities is a critical to ensuring healthy and safe workplaces,” said Jodi Sugerman-Brozan at the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (MassCOSH). “If we don't understand what is hurting, or worse, killing workers, we can't take action to reduce those hazards. The electronic record-keeping rule is meant to ensure that advocates like MassCOSH can conduct research on occupational health and safety, analyze the most serious workplace threats and push for stronger regulatory protections. Every worker deserves to come home to their families alive and well at the end of the day. We applaud the Massachusetts Attorney General's Office for taking a stand against the Trump Administration's plan to roll back this important rule.”
Upon announcing these reporting requirements just three years ago, OSHA touted them as vital for the prevention of safety hazards in the workplace. The rule was to require large employers that already maintained injury and illness tracking forms to annually submit those forms electronically, absent any personally identifiable information, to OSHA, which would then facilitate public access to the data. This data was intended to inform the development of workplace safety programs across the country, empower workers to identify risks in their workplaces and demand improvements, encourage employers to implement hazard mitigation measures, and allow researchers to study occupational safety and health in the workplace.
The 2016 rule was devised with input from private businesses, industry groups, labor unions, academics, state agencies, researchers, private citizens and others. Legitimate concerns about privacy were vetted and addressed, and when it issued the requirements, OSHA took certain steps, such as declining to collect employee names or the names of their physicians, to reconcile its new reporting requirement with the need to protect privacy.
This reporting rule would provide invaluable data to Massachusetts state agencies such as the Department of Labor Standards and Department of Public Health, which could use it to identify trends to develop recommendations, outreach, and training programs that would better protect Massachusetts workers. Unions and advocacy organizations such as MassCOSH could also use this data to empower workers and hold employers accountable for prioritizing workers' safety and health, and it would allow for Massachusetts colleges and universities to use this data for research and to train students in fields that directly affect occupational health and safety.
Today's complaint highlights OSHA's sudden disavowal of its prior commitment to transparency as an “about face” on an essential tool for the tracking of workplace hazards and dismisses as “illogical” OSHA's allegations that the reporting requirement could create privacy risks. The states call on the court to order that all aspects of the original OSHA reporting rule promulgated in 2016 be implemented.
Today's lawsuit was led by the attorney general from New Jersey, and joined by Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and New York.
This matter is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Amy Goyer, Chief of Investigations Heather Rowe, and Division Chief Cyndi Mark, all of the AG's Fair Labor Division.