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Court Rules Against OSHA in Electronic Recordkeeping Case

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled Wednesday against a motion to dismiss a lawsuit challenging an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) decision to suspend parts of its electronic record-keeping rule. The civil action was filed by three public advocacy groups represented by Public Citizen Health Research Group.

In May 2016, OSHA issued a rule requiring employers to electronically submit three injury and illness recordkeeping forms annually to the agency. In May 2018, OSHA announced employers were only required to submit one form (300A summaries). Public Citizen subsequently filed a civil action alleging that OSHA violated the Administrative Procedure Act and unlawfully deprived access to an important source of workplace health data by suspending acceptance of two of the forms.

In a Memorandum Opinion and Order, the court found the plaintiffs “have standing to proceed with their claims and that the challenged agency conduct was not simply an exercise of enforcement discretion, but rather a complete suspension of a regulatory deadline subject to review.” However, the court denied a motion for a preliminary injunction, finding the plaintiffs “have not demonstrated that they will suffer irreparable harm absent preliminary injunctive relief” if recordkeeping forms are not available.

If the plaintiffs prevail moving forward, OSHA may be required to recognize its originally established July 2018 electronic record submission deadline for all three forms. Employer groups have argued that electronic submission of records and related reporting transparency may increase their liability exposure risk.