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Congress to Cut OSHA Rule

Thursday, March 30, 2017

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Congress has voted to ditch a workplace regulation that extended the time period for federal workplace safety authorities to cite employers for failing to report workplace injuries and illnesses.

The U.S. Senate (50-48) has joined the House (231-191) in passing a resolution that blocks a workplace injury reporting rule, one that legislation author Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-AL) called, “an unlawful regulation” from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Work injury claim form
© / Bill Oxford

The U.S. Senate (50-48) joined the House (231-191) in passing a resolution that blocks a workplace injury reporting rule.

House Joint Resolution 83, “Disapproving the rule submitted by the Department of Labor relating to ‘Clarification of Employer’s Continuing Obligation to Make and Maintain an Accurate Record of Each Recordable Injury and Illness,’” combats a final ruling released by OSHA that details the responsibilities of management to report all work-related injuries and illnesses.

The Senate passed the bill March 22; President Donald J. Trump is expected to sign the resolution.

‘Flawed Regulation’

“I applaud the Senate for their swift passage of my bill to stop this unlawful power grab,” said Byrne. “We should be focused on proactive policies that help improve workplace safety instead of punitive rules that do nothing to make American workers safer. We took a major step in the right direction today by restricting OSHA from moving ahead with such a flawed regulation.”

Although OSHA has long required employers to keep records of workers’ injuries or illnesses for a period of five years, this became complicated in 2012, when a court ruled in AKM LLC v. Secretary of Labor that the government had only six months to issue a fine for inaccurate injury logs.

The revised OSHA rule (nicknamed the “Volks Rule”) maintains that companies should be subject to fines during the five years records retention period, which is the largest point of controversy and the main reason why Byrne calls the rule “a power grab.”

The rule became final in December 2016 and became effective in January.

© / Oko_SwanOmurphy

The revised OSHA rule (nicknamed the “Volks Rule”) maintains that companies should be subject to fines for up to five years, which is the largest point of controversy and the main reason why Byrne calls the rule “a power grab.”

A release from Byrne’s office states, “Congress has the authority to write laws—not government agencies,” and says that the rule “does nothing to improve worker health and safety. Instead of focusing on paperwork errors that occurred five years ago, OSHA should spend its time and resources addressing current working conditions and preventing injuries and illnesses from happening in the future.”

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said, “It’s a regulation that purports to look out for workers’ best interests but actually does little to achieve that outcome.”

‘Workplace Safety Should Not Be a Partisan Issue’

While supporters for the congressional resolution say that OSHA’s rule is no more than “paper pushing,” others disagree and have spoken out about their disappointment.

Peg Seminario of the AFL-CIO said, “There won’t be any ability to make sure that injury and illness records are accurate. Employers will have license and they’ll know that they can falsify their records and not be held accountable.”

The Teamsters Union denounced the legislation when it passed the House earlier this month, saying that "workplace safety should not be a partisan issue.”

© / ZernLiew

Other pushback to the rule focused on the organization’s stances against incentive programs for workplace safety and post-injury drug testing, saying both are helping to create the perceived culture of underreporting injury and illness for fear of retribution.

Under the rule, OSHA was aiming to create the largest publicly available data set on work injuries and illnesses, according to a press release. The agency expected that the public disclosure of injury data would give potential employees more information, thereby encouraging employers to make injury prevention a higher priority.

"The only way employers and workers understand what's going on in the workplace and why workers are being hurt is by looking at the log and by investigating the injuries that occurred," said David Michaels, the former head of OSHA, who added that he believes there are not enough safety inspectors to catch all the errors that could occur within a six-month statute.

House Joint Resolution 83 now goes to President Trump’s desk; he is expected to sign, as an already-issued White House statement said that the administration supports its passage.

The Department of Labor has not commented on the congressional votes and could not be reached for comment on Monday (March 27).


Tagged categories: Business matters; Department of Labor; Fatalities; Good Technical Practice; Government; Health and safety; Labor; Laws and litigation; OSHA; Safety; Workers

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