Safety and OSHA News

New OSHA rule: Agency can look further back for recordkeeping violations

To address a 2012 court decision, OSHA has proposed a rule to clarify that it can look at up to five years worth of an employer’s injury records and issue penalties if they’re incomplete. 

A U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruling had cut the look-back period to just six months.

OSHA had fined Volks Constructors of Prairieville, LA, $13,300 for failing to properly record workplace injuries and maintain its injury log between January 2002 and April 2006. OSHA issued the citations in November 2006.

Volks appealed because OSHA can only issue citations for up to six months following the occurrence of any violation.

OSHA argued its regulations require companies to save injury documentation for five years from the end of the calendar year the records cover.

But the federal appeals court ruled that the six-month statute of limitations held the look-back period to just six months.

OSHA’s error according to the court: Instead of citing Volks for the loss or destruction of a record, it cited the employer for failing to create a record in the first place.

If an injury or illness isn’t initially recorded, companies must update their OSHA 300 logs for five years after the employee experiences the workplace exposure that led to the injury or illness.

What changes for employers? Keeping injury records doesn’t change. What does change is that OSHA would have an additional avenue for recordkeeping fines over what it does now following the Volks ruling – it could cite companies for failure to record an injury going back up to five years instead of just six months.

OSHA chief David Michaels says injury records serve a life-saving purpose:

“They will enable employers, employees, researchers and the government to identify and eliminate the most serious workplace hazards – ones that have already caused injuries and illnesses to occur.”

The proposed rule is published in the July 29 Federal Register. OSHA will take comments on the proposal for 60 days.

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