Occupational Safety and Health Administration Trying to Extend Employee Injury Logs Deadline

Critics fear the move will let companies avoid accountability and take protections away from workers

Occupational Safety and Health Administration Trying to Extend Employee Injury Logs Deadline
Image: Pixabay
May 23, 2017

The federal workplace regulatory agency Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is trying to extend the deadline for companies to submit employee injury logs.

The announcement was made one week after The Center for Investigative Reporting published a story revealing the agency's failure to set up a website for the roughly 450,000 companies that are required to submit information electronically from their injury and illness logs by July 1.

OSHA was ready in February to set up a site with information for employers, but it was never launched. Its own website provided companies with the following message: "OSHA is not accepting electronic submissions."

The agency has now muddied the bureaucratic waters even further, stating that it "is not accepting electronic submissions of injury and illness logs at this time, and intends to propose extending the July 1, 2017 date by which certain employers are required to submit the information."

Critics are concerned that the possible delay—one of the first actions taken under new Labor Secretary R. Alexander Acosta—will take worker protections away and let companies avoid accountability.

"Acosta is weighing in on the side of big corporate lobbyists and not on the side of workers in dangerous industries," said Deborah Berkowitz, a senior fellow with the National Employment Law Project and a former OSHA senior policy adviser. "OSHA won't be able to target the most dangerous workplaces because they won't have the data."

The injury and illness regulations are meant to encourage employers to improve employee safety, give employees a fuller understanding of the risks associated with their workplaces, and help agency investigators to prioritize investigations. A new rule bars employers from retaliating against employees who report safety issues.

Industry groups have taken OSHA to federal court in Oklahoma and Texas over the requirements. They claim that the agency is overreaching its authority and that the regulations would force companies to reveal private information.