NEW JERSEY – Acting Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin Monday led a coalition of Attorneys General in supporting a proposed federal rule that would empower workers and expand public awareness of on-the-job dangers.
The proposed rule would require many employers to report more detailed information about workplace injuries and illnesses to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and would make that information publicly available.
In a letter to U.S. Labor Commissioner Martin J. Walsh, Acting Attorney General Platkin and the other participating Attorneys General expressed support for the proposed rule, describing it as “a significant improvement” on current reporting requirements.
The coalition-backed new rule would update current reporting regulations with important new amendments that call for more extensive reporting to OSHA by some employers.
Among other things, the rule would require certain employers with more than 100 employees in high-risk industries to annually submit three forms to OSHA electronically – a Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses (OSHA Form 300), an Injury and Illness Report (OSHA Form 301), and the summary information (OSHA Form 300A).
The proposed rule would also largely maintain the current requirement that employers with 20 or more employees in certain industries submit information from the summary form on an annual basis. The required submissions to OSHA would exclude any employee-identifying information and, critically, would be made available to the public electronically.
The new rule will also empower workers, encourage the improvement of working conditions, and provide for added transparency, Acting Attorney General Platkin and the other Attorneys General note. As the letter observes, such transparency will help state regulators more effectively enforce state labor and safety laws and identify and address workplace hazards, while at the same time increasing understanding of occupational dangers among researchers, job seekers, the general public, and others.
“Workers in New Jersey and across the nation have a right to do their jobs in the safest possible conditions, and the public has a right to know what workplace hazards exist within our industries. The proposed OSHA rule promotes both goals, and we are proud to lead the effort to support it,” Platkin said. “Requiring employers to provide more detailed reporting of occupational injuries and illnesses will help New Jersey and other states better target our enforcement, awareness, and prevention efforts.”
In the letter, Acting Attorney General Platkin and the other coalition participants stress the limitations of requiring employers to submit only the annual summary information reported on OSHA Form 300A.
Far more can be learned, the letter observes, from some of the information collected on the Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses (OSHA Form 300) and the Injury and Illness Report (OSHA Form 301) that certain employers with more than 100 employees in high-risk industries will be required to submit annually under the proposed OSHA rule.
Specifically, the Attorneys General note, these two forms collect detailed, narrative information about each injury or illness. The forms collect information regarding, for instance, what an employee was doing before the accident, how the injury occurred, what the specific injury or illness was, and which part or parts of the employee’s body were affected. The forms also include information regarding where on the premises the injury happened, the job title of the affected employee, and what object or substance directly harmed the employee.
As the coalition letter notes, these fields paint a detailed picture of the nature and severity of workplace safety risks, more than simply the number of reported cases.
To increase public access to the data that will be made available by the proposed rule, the Attorneys General suggest that OSHA consider requiring designated industries to post information about the availability of the data, conduct outreach programs in collaboration with state departments of labor and health, and create partnerships with non-profit and non-governmental industries to provide training and outreach.
The letter also praises the steps OSHA takes in the proposed rule to ensure that workers’ privacy and identifying information is safeguarded.
In 2016, under the Obama Administration, OSHA finalized a rule that required all employers with 250 or more employees to submit to OSHA detailed injury and illness reports electronically (OSHA Forms 300 and 301) on an annual basis.
Under the Trump Administration, OSHA subsequently delayed implementation of that rule, and then enacted its own rule, which eliminated the Obama-era requirement but maintained the summary reporting of Form 300A.
New Jersey subsequently led a coalition of states that opposed the Trump Administration’s rollback of the Obama Administration’s reporting regulations, first with a letter to OSHA in September 2018, and later with a federal lawsuit challenging the final rule. The proposed rule would accomplish the objective of the New Jersey-led coalition of states to unwind the Trump Administration’s rollback of the workplace hazard reporting regulations.
Joining Acting Attorney General Platkin in letter of support for the proposed OSHA reporting rule were the Attorneys General of: California, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont.