In 2016, a permanent ruling by the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) stirred controversy when it extended the requirements for reporting employee illnesses and injuries into the digital—and publicly searchable—realm. That ruling proved impermanent last week, when the administration walked back some of its requirements for the sake of worker privacy.

OSHA regulation 29 CFR part 1904 requires employers in most industries with more than 10 employees to keep records of occupational injuries and illnesses. Employers covered by these rules (including manufacturers) are required to record each employee injury and illness on OSHA Form 300, otherwise known as ‘‘Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses,’’ or some equivalent. Employers must also prepare a supplementary OSHA Form 301, ‘‘Injury and Illness Incident Report,’’ or equivalent, providing additional details about each case.

At the end of the year, they’re then required to summarize those incidents on OSHA Form 300A, ‘‘Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses,’’ as well as post them in a visible location in the workplace. In May 2016, a new requirement enacted by OSHA, titled “Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses,” took measures a step further by requiring companies with 250 or more employees to send Form 300 and Form 301 data electronically, after which the administration would make them publicly available via an online, searchable database. Those requirements did not sit well with some companies or industry organizations, many of which argued that such an open database would sacrifice the privacy of involved employees.

Officials for OSHA say those electronic filing requirement were “never enforced.” Then, in July 2018, a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) surfaced, aiming to permanently undo some electronic filing requirements, in an effort to restore workers’ privacy. That ruling was upheld last week, in an effort to “better protect personally identifiable information,” an official OSHA filing suggests. Going forward, companies are still required to maintain those records on-site, where OSHA officials say they will continue to obtain them as needed through inspections and enforcement actions, but, under the latest ruling, companies with 250 or more employees will no longer have to submit forms 300 and 301 data electronically. They will, however, still be required to submit Form 300A electronically.

At the same time, “Elimination of the requirement that establishments with 250 or more employees submit information electronically from their OSHA Forms 300 and 301—a requirement that has not yet been enforced—does not change any employer’s obligation to complete and retain injury and illness records under OSHA’s regulations for recording and reporting occupational injuries and illnesses,” OSHA’s filing warns. “The final rule also does not add to or change the recording criteria or definitions for these records.”

In addition to continuing to file Form 300A data electronically, employers are also now required to include Employer Identification Numbers (EINs) in electronic submissions, in order to improve the administration’s ability to track and analyze injuries and illnesses.

The rule was published to the Federal Register Friday, January 25, 2019, and will take effect 30 days thereafter.