The Senate recently voted 50-48 to pass a joint resolution scrapping the so-called “Volks” rule, which OSHA issued in the final days of the Obama administration. President Donald Trump is expected to sign the resolution and officially overturn the rule.
Employers have long been required to record and maintain work-related injury and illness data over a five-year span. However, they could be cited for violations only within a six-month time period. Those guidelines changed December 19, 2016 with the “Volks” rule, which made recordkeeping requirements a continuing obligation and effectively gave OSHA the ability to issue citations to employers for failing to record work-related injuries and illnesses during the five-year retention period, contrary to the six-month statute of limitations. This final rule was in response to a 2012 decision involving Volks Constructors, a Louisiana-based heavy industrial contractor that held that OSHA could not issue citations for failing to record an injury or illness beyond the six-month statute of limitations set out in the statute.
According to OSHA, the new rule was meant to “clarify that the duty to make and maintain an accurate record of an injury or illness continues for as long as the employer must keep and make available records for the year in which the injury or illness occurred. The duty does not expire if the employer fails to create the necessary records when first required to do so.”
However, many viewed the December ruling as overreach by the federal agency. In response, Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-AL), chairman of the House Workforce Protections Subcommittee, co-authored legislation to block what he called “an unlawful regulation” from OSHA. According to Republican House members, the rule violates OSHA policies and fails to improve worker protections. “OSHA’s power grab is not only unlawful, it does nothing to improve workplace safety,” said Byrne. “What it does do is force small businesses to confront even more unnecessary red tape and unjustified litigation.”
“OSHA should collaborate with employers to prevent injuries and illnesses in workplaces and address any gaps in safety that might exist,” said Byrne. “I am pleased the House [and now the Senate] has acted to block this unlawful rule, and look forward to continuing our efforts to support proactive safety policies that help keep America’s workers safe.”
Workplace safety is critical in all industries, including high-hazard sectors such as construction. As specialists in construction insurance, including providing Workers’ Compensation solutions, RPS will continue to monitor regulations and new legislation as they unfold to keep our agency partners and their clients updated.