In Focus: Senate Votes to Revoke OSHA Record-Keeping Rule

Rule allows safety agency to cite employers for record-keeping violations for about five years


An Obama-era Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) rule extending the agency's authority to issue citations for record-keeping violations from six months to five years is one step closer to being repealed.

The Senate approved a resolution to block the rule in a 50-48 vote on March 22. The U.S. House of Representatives also approved the resolution earlier this month, and President Donald Trump is expected to sign it.

OSHA regulations require covered employers to keep injury records for at least five years, but if this rule is revoked, the agency will only be able to issue citations during the six-month period following a record-keeping violation.

[SHRM members-only toolkit: Developing Effective Safety Management Programs]

OSHA's Rule Defies Court Ruling

Although OSHA requires employers to keep their workplace injury logs for five years, a 2012 court ruling confirmed that the agency's authority to issue citations for record-keeping violations was limited to the six-month statute of limitations under the Occupational Safety and Health Act. OSHA said its new rule, which was finalized in December 2016, was meant to clarify that employers have a continued duty to maintain accurate logs for the entire five-year record-keeping period. Thus, the agency's rule essentially undoes the court's decision, which was unfavorable to OSHA. (The National Law Review)

Worker Advocates Support OSHA's Rule

Supporters of the agency's rule say it was meant to clarify a long-standing OSHA policy and that a six-month lookback period doesn't give investigators enough time to identify willful or recurring problems. Debbie Berkowitz, a senior fellow with worker-advocacy group the National Employment Law Project, said the resolution to block the rule "will give license to employers to keep fraudulent records and to willfully violate the law with impunity," The Huffington Post reports. (The Huffington Post)

Republicans Support Repeal

Republicans argue that OSHA's rule oversteps the agency's authority. "It's a regulation that purports to look out for workers' best interests but actually does little to achieve that outcome," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said. He said repealing the rule would allow businesses to focus "on actual safety of employees," The Hill reports. (The Hill)

House Also Approved Resolution

On March 1, the House voted 231-191 in favor of the resolution to block OSHA's rule. The resolution's sponsor, Rep. Bradley Byrne, R-Ala., said the rule does nothing to improve workplace health and safety. Byrne challenged the rule under the Congressional Review Act, (CRA), which has been used to target "midnight rules" put through in the final days of an outgoing president's administration when there's a transition to a new party. (SHRM Online)

More Workplace Safety Rules Targeted

Republican lawmakers have targeted several more Obama-era workplace safety regulations, including ones that affect federal contractors. Congress has already voted to block the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces rule, known as the blacklisting rule. That rule, which was put on hold by a federal court in 2016, would require certain federal contractors to disclose and correct serious safety violations. Lawmakers are also using the CRA to block the blacklisting rule—which will have a significant impact if Trump signs the resolution (as he is expected to do). Once the CRA is successfully used to quash a rule, the agency (OSHA in this case) is barred from passing a substantially similar measure. Congress must pass a law instead, which is a more difficult process. (The Washington Post)


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