House Votes to Revoke OSHA Recordkeeping Rule, Heads to Senate

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By Bruce Rolfsen

The House voted along party lines 231-191 March 1 to repeal an OSHA rule that made it easier for the agency to cite employers for not recording on-the-job injuries and illnesses.

The rule extends the window for Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspectors to cite employers for recordkeeping violations to five years. The prior limit was six months.

During the debate leading up to the vote, the resolution’s sponsor, Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Ala.), called the rule “an outrageous power grab” by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Defending the rule, Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) said the regulation helped prevent employers from underreporting workplace injuries to keep their workers’ compensation insurance costs low, stay eligible for government contracts and lower the likelihood of OSHA inspections.Despite the vote, the recordkeeping rule remains in effect. It will be enforced until the Senate passes a companion resolution and President Donald Trump signs the joint resolution.

Senate Next?

There is no guarantee the Senate will take action before Congress’s opportunity to cancel the rule expires, likely in the late spring. Of the 13 resolutions the House has approved to overturn rules issued in the last six months of the Obama administration, the Senate has voted on three, passing all. OSHA issued the rule (RIN:1218-AC84) on Dec. 16, leaving it well within the window to be vulnerable to repeal under the provisions of the Congressional Review Act.

The resolution moved swiftly through the House, reaching a floor vote nine days after it was introduced by Byrne, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Workforce Protections.

Court Workaround

The rule’s intent was to circumvent a court decision restricting OSHA’s ability to cite recordkeeping violations up to five years old.The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit concluded in 2012 that OSHA couldn’t cite employers for failing to record on-the-job injuries or illnesses if the violation took place more than six months before the citation was issued.The unanimous decision said the Occupational Safety and Health Act prohibited the agency from citing violations older than six months.OSHA didn’t appeal the decision. Instead, they issued the rule.The rule says a recordkeeping error can be cited for up to five years after the mistake was made because the employer continued to not correct its injury and illness logs. The five-year limit was based on the agency’s requirement that employers keep their OSHA form 300 logs for at least five years.Employer groups said OSHA should have asked Congress to change the law, rather than issue a rule. The groups also said it wasn’t realistic to expect an employer to be able to explain years after the fact, why an injury wasn’t correctly recorded.

To contact the reporter on this story: Bruce Rolfsen in Washington at BRolfsen@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at lpearl@bna.com

For More Information

The text of H.J. Res. 83 is available at http://src.bna.com/mys.

The OSHA rule is available at http://src.bna.com/kOZ.

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