Court: Employer Injury, Illness Records are Public Information

Court: Employer Injury, Illness Records are Public Information

Employer injury and illness records submitted to federal OSHA are not confidential and can be released if requested via a Freedom of Information Act request, according to a June 4 court decision. A U.S. District Court judge rejected the Department of Labor’s argument against a suit filed by the Center for Investigative Reporting that such records were exempt because they fall under the category of trade secrets and commercial or financial information, which is confidential.

These records – the OSHA Form 300A summaries containing information on a company’s total number of job-related incidents for the preceding calendar year – must be posted in the workplace from February through April, under current regulations. Employers with 250 or more employees along with those in certain industries with 20 or more employees have to electronically submit the summaries to OSHA every year.

Info Already Posted in Workplace

The decision making these documents accessible to the public “seems based at least in part on the fact that in 2016, OSHA stated its intent to post the information online, and reiterated that all employers must annually post the Form 300A where all employees can see it,” according to law firm Ogletree Deakins.

Because of that, the judge found the DOL failed to establish Form 300A information is treated as private by its owner and provided to the government under an assurance of privacy. This decision means employers may want to prepare for receiving questions from employees, the media, or other third parties about the information on their Form 300A summaries and what it may imply about their workplace safety record, Ogletree Deakins states. The judge instructed both parties to submit a joint proposed order, but the DOL could still appeal the decision and employer advocacy groups could also try to intervene. Want to find out more about recordkeeping requirements? Click here to enroll in our online Recordkeeping Specialist Course.

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