The nation’s top workplace safety regulator has directed scores of companies to begin submitting their injury records, but with the impending deadline less than two months away, there is still no website set up for these workplaces to comply.
“Because the secretary of labor is not allowing OSHA (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration) to post this website, it means tens of thousands of employers will be in violation of the law,” said David Michaels, who headed OSHA under President Barack Obama and is now a professor at George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health.
Michaels was referring to Alexander Acosta, whose first day as secretary of labor was Friday. “Law-abiding employers are asking where to send their information in. OSHA is ignoring the law.”
The new rules, which went into effect on Jan. 1, are to be phased in over two years. Employers must electronically submit data from their injury and illness logs by July 1. In addition, companies are barred from retaliating against workers who report such incidents.
Some of the data they submit is to be posted on a public website. But there’s just one problem. “OSHA is not accepting electronic submissions at this time,” the agency’s website says.
The requirements are intended to encourage employers to improve their injury rates, allow workers to understand the risks associated with their workplaces and help federal investigators prioritize investigations.
But industry groups have challenged the new requirements in federal courts in Oklahoma and Texas.
In January, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Home Builders and other industry groups sued OSHA in U.S. District Court in Oklahoma, arguing that the new rules would force employers to disclose private information.
They also contend that OSHA is overreaching its authority. Other industry groups such as the National Association of Manufacturers have argued in federal court in Texas that the anti-retaliation provisions are unjustified.
In March, Justice Department attorneys filed requests to stay both cases to allow for a regulatory review by the Trump administration.
“Not only does OSHA not have the authority to do this, it also exposes a business to significant reputational harm, all without demonstrating any evidence that it would effectively reduce workplace injuries and illnesses,” Ed Brady, immediate past chairman of the National Association of Home Builders, wrote in a statement in January. “Workplace safety is of the utmost concern of our members, however the rule is unlawful and does not serve its intended purpose of improving workplace safety.”
A representative for the Labor Department did not respond to a request for comment.
Starting in the 1990s, OSHA sent letters each year soliciting data from roughly 80,000 employers in high-risk industries. The regulator collected the number of injuries recorded and the number of hours worked, allowing it to calculate injury rates.
The agency made this data, which ran through 2011, available on its website. OSHA ended the program in anticipation of launching the new reporting requirements, which were intended to make public more comprehensive data on injuries for more employers.