In the final weeks of the Obama administration, the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a rule clarifying an employer’s continuing obligation to make and maintain an accurate log of workplace injuries and illnesses for five years after they occur.
While OSHA inspectors have long used this information to enhance health and safety protections in America’s jobsites, the law explicitly says that employers can only be cited for record-keeping violations within a six-month time period. Yet the new “Volks” rule, extends the threat of penalty up to five years, which many consider an attempt to make an end-run around a 2012 D.C. Circuit Court decision that previously ended the five-year practice.
Alabama 1st District U.S. Rep. Bradley Bryrne is working to overturn the new rule, which he calls an “unlawful power grab by the Obama administration.”
Chairman of the Subcommittee on Workforce Protections, Bryne introduced a resolution of disapproval, H. J. Res 83, under the Congressional Review Act to overturn the rule and reject a failed approach to workplace safety on Tuesday.
“Every worker deserves safe and healthy working conditions, and bad actors who put hardworking men and women in harm’s way must be held accountable,” said Byrne. “That’s why Republicans have consistently called on OSHA to improve its enforcement efforts and collaborate with employers to address gaps in safety.”
Under the Congressional Review Act, Congress may pass a resolution of disapproval to prevent, with the full force of law, a federal agency from implementing a rule or issuing a rule that is substantially the same without congressional authorization. Chairman Byrne’s resolution would block OSHA’s “Volks” rule from taking effect and prevent future administrations from promulgating a similar rule.
Bryne continued, “Unfortunately, the Obama administration consistently doubled down on failed, punitive policies that do more to tie small businesses in red tape than protect workers. With this rule, OSHA rewrote federal law while doing nothing to improve worker health and safety. Congress must reject this unlawful power grab and encourage the agency to adopt the responsible, proactive safety approach that America’s workers deserve.”
Prior to Byrne’s resolution, two federal appeals courts have rejected the policies reflected in the rule after a Louisiana construction company was cited for paperwork errors occurring nearly five years prior.
“We do not believe Congress expressly established a statute of limitations only to implicitly encourage the Secretary to ignore it,” the D.C. Circuit Court noted.