Description: The resolution blocked an Obama-era rule that involves an employer’s duty to keep accurate logs of workplace injuries and illnesses. Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, many employers are legally required to keep records of workplace injuries and illnesses, and to maintain those records for 5 years. The Obama-era rule clarified that an employer could be issued a citation and fined for failure to properly record a workplace injury/illness any time during that 5-year period. The resolution nullified this rule.
Background: Since the early 1970s, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has required many employers to keep careful records of workplace injuries and illnesses, and to maintain those records for 5 years. If an employer’s injury/illness logs are inaccurate – for example, if a worker is injured on the job and the employer fails to log it – OSHA can issue a citation and fine. For the past 40 years, OSHA had been issuing those citations any time within the 5-year period that the illness/injury record is required to be kept.
In 2012, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that if a worker got injured, OSHA only had six months to check an employer’s log and issue a citation if the injury was not recorded. That meant that even though employers must maintain injury/illness records for five years, if OSHA inspectors do not catch the employer’s record omission within the first six months after the injury, the employer will get off the hook. Since OSHA inspections generally take longer than 6 months, the court’s ruling made it a lot harder for OSHA to punish companies for bad record keeping. One of the judges on the court, though, wrote that OSHA could issue a new rule clarifying employers’ recordkeeping duties.
In response, OSHA promulgated the rule to allow OSHA to resume what it had been doing for the last 40 years: citing an employer for failure to log an injury/illness anytime within the entire 5-year period that the record of injury must be kept. This rule created no new record keeping requirements for employers, it just allowed OSHA more time to do its work.
Fair Economy Impact: When Congress passed, and President Trump signed, the resolution to block this rule, they gave employers a get-out-of-jail free card when employers fail to maintain – or falsify – their injury/illness logs. These records are not just paperwork: If an employee is injured on the job (say cut or burned, or worse, suffers an amputation or fatality) then it is the employer’s duty to record that injury and investigate what happened. Failure to keep injury records means that employers, OSHA, and workers cannot learn from past mistakes, and makes it harder to prevent the same tragedies from happening to others in the future.
- President Trump signed into law April 3, 2017
- Senate Passed (50-48) on March 22, 2017
- House Passed (231-191) on March 1, 2017
- On February 28, The White House issued a Statement of Administration Policy indicating that the president would sign the resolution.