OSHA’s Volks Rule Overturned by Congressional Review Act
Late today, the Senate voted 50-48 to adopt H.J. Res 83, nullifying OSHA’s rule “Clarification of Employer’s Continuing Obligation to Make and Maintain Accurate Records of Each Recordable Injury and Illness,” informally referred to as the “Volks” rule. The “Volks” rule 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 5-year retention period, contrary to the six-month statute of limitations. This final rule was in response to a 2012 U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia decision 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. AKM LLC d/b/a Volks Constructors v. Sec’y of Labor, 675 F.3d 752 (D.C. Cir. 2012).
Unhappy with the unfavorable ruling, on July 29, 2015 OSHA issued a proposed rule which it finalized in December 2016 and became effective in January 2017. According to OSHA, the 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.” The final rule was more than merely an attempt to clarify an existing duty, it created a new one by undoing the holding in the Volks case.
The resolution passed the House of Representatives on March 1, 2017 and today the Senate adopted the resolution under the Congressional Review Act, a clear indication that Congress believed OSHA had exceed its authority in issuing the final rule. The resolution will now head to President Donald Trump to sign, who has indicated he will sign the resolution.