Sustained Outrage

OSHA secrecy?

I reported yesterday about Bayer filing its appeal of the citations and fines issued to it by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration over the August explosion that killed two Institute plant workers.

In the process, I asked OSHA officials for a copy of the “notice of contest” filed by Bayer’s lawyers. But the usually helpful OSHA regional spokeswoman, Leni Uddyback-Fortson, wouldn’t give it to me. She said OSHA policy was such documents were part of their “investigation file” and not released to the public or the press.

OK, I said, what exemption to the federal Freedom of Information Act allows you to keep that notice from the public? Leni kicked me upstairs to Diana Peterson, a top OSHA public affairs person in Washington, D.C.

I called her, and was told she’d get me an answer. So far, she hasn’t. This afternoon, she said she would have to get back to me, hopefully by tomorrow morning.

“I’m unable to give you a response today,” Peterson said. “I still have other people I need to talk with.”

If OSHA has a policy of not releasing these documents, shouldn’t the agency’s lawyers have figured out a long time ago what FOIA exemption they believe allows such a policy?