Federal injury and illness records covering more than 238,000 employers are now available for anyone to see.
Public Citizen posted the information Monday that it obtained after winning a federal Freedom of Information Act lawsuit seeking to force the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to release data for 2016 (Public Citizen Found. v. DOL, D.D.C., No, 18-cv-00117, 6/23/20). OSHA had refused to release the records by claiming employer confidentiality.
Among large companies, the reports show that Walt Disney Parks and Resorts U.S. Inc., near Orlando, Fla., recorded 2,702 cases among its average employee base of 62,668 workers. National grocery retailer and distributor Delhaize America L.L.C., listed 3,352 cases among 100,565 employees.
The records were released because, starting in 2016, OSHA required employers with 250 or more workers and those with 20 or more workers in hazardous industries to electronically file their OSHA Form 300A reports with the agency (29 C.F.R. 1904.41). The reports are annual summaries of workers’ injuries and illnesses that also include the average number of workers and total hours worked. The reports don’t include details on individual cases or the names of workers.
Attorney Michael Kirkpatrick in Washington, who represented Public Citizen, said he anticipates OSHA will soon release similar data for 2017 and 2018. OSHA didn’t respond to Bloomberg Law requests to discuss the release.
Recognizing Unsafe Workplaces
David Michaels, who as OSHA’s administrator during the Obama administration championed the electronic reporting rule, welcomed the release.
“By having their injury rates public, employers will prevent injuries without OSHA having to inspect, so they can avoid being recognized as operating unsafe workplaces,” Michaels, now a public health professor at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., said.
Marc Freedman, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s vice president for employment policy, said OSHA should reconsider its decision to collect the data now that the agency has been ordered to release the numbers. The forms contain sensitive data that employers work hard to protect, specifically the number of employees and the number of hours worked, Freedman said.
Attorney Ed Foulke, who oversaw OSHA during the second term of the George Bush administration and is now a partner with Fisher Phillips LLP in Atlanta, said the release should prompt employers to pay closer attention to which cases qualify for inclusion on OSHA forms.
“It still amazes me that a lot of employers don’t understand how to do recordkeeping,” Foulke said.
Recordkeeping concerns are sure to grow in 2020 as employers try to determine which Covid-19 cases among their workers qualify as recordable illnesses, Foulke added.
The newly released data includes information from 237,981 employers who are required to record on OSHA forms any injury or illness that needs more than first aid treatment or leads workers to miss a day or more from their jobs.