COURT RULES AGAINST OSHA IN SURVEY CASE

WASHINGTON (FNS) -- A U.S. District Court judge ruled Jan. 31 that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration may not force businesses to submit injury and illness data as part of a survey under the agency's Data Collection Initiative.Under that initiative, the OSHA was collecting data from certain industries, including grocery wholesalers. Food Distributors International, Falls Church, Va.,

WASHINGTON (FNS) -- A U.S. District Court judge ruled Jan. 31 that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration may not force businesses to submit injury and illness data as part of a survey under the agency's Data Collection Initiative.

Under that initiative, the OSHA was collecting data from certain industries, including grocery wholesalers. Food Distributors International, Falls Church, Va., and other groups opposed the move because they said the OSHA would use the data to formulate ergonomics regulations that are being contested by the industry groups.

FDI and other groups had filed a brief supporting a lawsuit against the OSHA on the grounds that the agency adopted its reporting demand without first giving targeted industries notice that they would be required to respond to it. Also, the OSHA did not provide those industries with a detailed explanation of why they were targeted for coverage, FDI said.

Other associations that protested the OSHA's actions included the American Warehouse Association, the American Trucking Association, Federal Express, United Parcel Service and the National Beer Wholesalers Association.

"OSHA lied when it said a response to its survey was mandatory," FDI President John R. Block said in a statement. "In acting illegally, the agency far overreached its power, unnecessarily burdening our members. The judge's decision stops OSHA dead in its tracks."

The suit stems from the OSHA's February 1996 request for injury and illness data from about 80,000 businesses as part of a survey. In making its request the OSHA included instructions stating that the law required mandatory compliance in completing the form within 30 days. The court ruled that neither the statute nor the regulation makes the survey mandatory.