Congress Nullifies Obama Workplace Injury Reporting Rule

March 24, 2017

The U.S. Senate (50-48) joined the House (231-191) in passing a resolution blocking a federal workplace injury and accident reporting rule put in place by the Obama Administration last December.

The Department of Labor rule issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) extended the period of time from six months to five years that employers could face fines for not keeping records on workplace incidents.

Employers have for years been required to maintain records on workplace injuries and illnesses for a five-year span. OSHA uses the information to help it gauge health and safety conditions at worksites.

Republican opponents of the Obama reporting rule said it violated a six month statute of limitations in the law regarding record keeping violations. For its part, OSHA said the rule reflected its actual longstanding position that employers have an ongoing obligation to keep records.

Rep. Bradley Byrne

Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Ala.), chairman of the House Workforce Protections Subcommittee, sponsored the resolution to nullify what he called “an unlawful power grab” by OSHA.

According to Byrne, employers should only be cited for violations of this record keeping law within a six month window. The Obama Administration’s rule, known as the “Volks” rule, meant OSHA could penalize an employer for a violation anytime during the five years.

In 2012, the D.C. Circuit in AKM LLC v. Secretary of Labor (Volks) rejected OSHA’s position on the continuing nature of its prior record keeping regulations. OSHA revised the rule before its final issuance last December, maintaining that the final rule added no new compliance obligations and did not require employers to make records of any injuries or illnesses for which records were not already required.

Byrne and his Republican colleagues maintained the rule was an attempt to rewrite the law and that it imposed a burden on employers that would do little to improve workplace safety.

“I applaud the Senate for their swift passage of my bill to stop this unlawful power grab. We should be focused on proactive policies that help improve workplace safety instead of punitive rules that do nothing to make American workers safer,” Byrne said in a statement.

The White House has indicated President Donald Trump will sign the measure.

Under the Congressional Review Act, Congress may pass a resolution of disapproval to prevent a federal agency from implementing a rule. Byrne’s resolution (H. J. Res 83) blocks OSHA’s “Volks” rule from taking effect and prevents future administrations from promulgating a similar rule.

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