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PRA-Related FAQs

...which are voluntary in nature?

...which do not involve any forms (paper)?

...which are conducted over the telephone?

...performed as a part of a focus group or roundtable?

...where only one question is asked?

...which will only be conducted one time?

...which are part of a pilot project or program?

...which is the result of an Executive Order or Statute?

...which are customer satisfaction surveys (paper or web-based)?


The Paperwork Reduction Act is a law and must be complied with regardless of the origin, mode, or reason for the collection.  In accordance with the PRA, OMB approval must be obtained prior to collecting information in any situation (whether voluntary, mandatory, or required to obtain or retain benefits) where 10 or more respondents are involved and the questions are standardized in nature.

There are provisions in the PRA for emergency processing of ICR packages.  Such processing can be done very quickly.  Approvals obtained this way are only good for a maximum of 6 months, allowing enough time to obtain approval through the normal process, if necessary.  Emergency processing is only to be used to respond to circumstances that could not be foreseen and when the use of regular procedures would result in significant harm to the public or the program.  Failure to plan, avoidance of embarrassment, etc., are not valid justifications.  Requests for emergency processing must be approved in advance by the OMB Desk Officer responsible for DOL. 

The complete review and approval process can take anywhere from 6-9 months, depending on the number of requests currently in process and the data collection subject matter.  This estimate includes the 60-day and 30-day public comment periods and the 60 days OMB has to review and act upon each submission.

The process varies depending on the subject matter of the data collection.  Collections may not begin until OMB approves the collection.  Existing collections may not continue past the current expiration date without a new clearance.  Generally the steps for the requestor are:

  • Step 1:  If you are considering collecting information from the public or mandating records or reports, contact the Office of Standards, Regulations, and Variances for assistance.
  • Step 2: Prepare and publish a notice in the Federal Register to provide a 60-day period for the public to comment on the reporting and record keeping requirements associated with the information collection.  The entire package will contain at least a Supporting Statement and any collection instruments or forms used in the collection.
  • Step 3:  Review public comments and prepare responses.
  • Step 4:  Prepare and submit to DOL OCIO the 30-Day Federal Register Notice that includes revisions and responses to public comments.
  • Step 5: The Departmental Reports Clearance Officer (DOL OCIO) reviews the collection for quality and forwards the collection to OMB.
  • Step 6:  Information collection may begin or continue after OMB grants a collection approval.

Yes, except PRA clearance is not necessary for very general invitations for public comments and suggestions.  The PRA DOES apply if specific questions are asked.

For government employees, yes.  The objective of the law is to reduce the paperwork burden on the public.  The process of trying to do that adds to government paperwork.

Data collection is considered federally sponsored when a federal agency:

  • causes another agency to collect information;
  • contracts or enters into a cooperative agreement to collect information; or
  • requires a person to provide information to another person, or otherwise causes another person to obtain, retain, solicit, or require the disclosure to third parties or the public. 

A respondent includes individuals; partnerships; associations; corporations; business trusts; legal representatives; organized groups of individuals; and State, territory, tribal or local governments.

The PRA only applies to collections directed at 10 or more respondents, but with one important exception.  Any information requirement in a "rule of general applicability" is presumed to affect or potentially affect at least 10 respondents, even if MSHA expects there to be fewer respondents.  A rule should be considered to have general applicability unless you can demonstrate that it would be impossible for there ever to be 10 respondents.

Not usually. No clearance is needed if the attendees are just asked to comment or give suggestions on the program or subject in question.  If, however, the group is gathered for having attendees respond to a specific set of formatted questions, then the PRA DOES apply.