Despite the government shutdown, the Office of Management and Budget was able to jam through a huge change to a critical regulation that protects workplace safety. The timing and the speed with which the amendments were made are suspicious, and the impact on workplace accidents and workers’ compensation are significant.
The Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses Rule
One of the biggest problems workplace safety regulators have is identifying where accidents and injuries are likely to happen. If they knew where workplace hazards were likely to be, they could target those sectors and businesses with audits and better protect the workers there.
The Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses Rule was meant to do just that. Passed in 2016 by President Obama’s administration, the Rule would require certain businesses and employers to send detailed reports of all workplace injuries to the Department of Labor. The Rule was a worker-friendly change to a regulation that only required businesses to keep, rather than send, reports that were far less detailed.
The goal of the Rule was simple: Provide workplace safety regulators with the information they needed to make their limited resources go further and protect more workers.
Business Interests Win a Delay of New Rule
The Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses Rule went into effect on January 1, 2017. It required covered employers to submit their first detailed reports of workplace injuries to the Department of Labor on July 1, 2017.
Business interests lobbied the new administration intensively to get a delay of the new Rule, and won. While the Rule was still in effect, businesses no longer had to submit their reports in July, 2017.
Rule Quietly Amended and Quickly Scrapped
While the delay was in effect, the administration amended the Rule: Instead of submitting a detailed report of workplace injuries, covered employers would only have to send a summary report. The change was small, but the effects were huge. The lack of information provided in the reports would eliminate much of the point behind the Rule.
The amended Rule, however, had to pass through the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to get approved. This process is supposed to take three months, and include opportunities for the public to comment on the proposed amendments.
The OMB, however, completed the review in six weeks – less than half the usual time – approved the amendment to the Rule, and published it. The speedy process was especially eyebrow-raising because it happened during the government shutdown, when most of the OMB’s staff was furloughed.
Smith Law Office Continues to Protect Workers’ Compensation Rights
We have covered the numerous other times that workers’ compensation rights have been threatened by seemingly procedural changes to federal regulations. For example, there was the rollback of regulations dealing with beryllium exposure, and there was the repeal of the Volks Rule, which also dealt with employer recordkeeping of workplace injuries. Gutting these little regulations has already had a huge impact: The Bureau of Labor Statistics claimed that workplace injuries are on the decline, but those injuries are now likely underreported because lots of employers no longer have to notify anyone.
The workers’ compensation and personal injury lawyers at the Smith Law Office in St. Joseph are not being fooled by the good news. Our lawyers will continue to represent people who have been hurt on the worksite. Contact us online or call our law office at (816) 875-9373.