OSHA Proposes New Rules Revising Recordkeeping Requirements

Author: Ashley Shaw

August 6, 2015

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has proposed new rules intended to clarify its recordkeeping obligations. If finalized, the new rules will allow OSHA to fine an employer for failing to record an injury or illness even outside of its six-month inspection time frame.

The proposed rules are issued in response to a 2012 ruling by the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, AKM LLC v. Secretary of Labor (Volks).

Under the current rules, an employer must keep records of injuries and illnesses for five years and must provide these records to OSHA during workplace inspections. However, the OSH Act limits the administration's fining power to a six-month statute of limitations.

OSHA had interpreted this seeming inconsistency by saying that the records must be properly maintained for the entire five-year period. Therefore, even if the injury or illness was omitted outside of the six-month mark, OSHA considered it part of the current five-year requirement and would issue a fine.

However, the Volks court ruled that if the specific unrecorded injury or illness occurred more than six months before inspection, then OSHA could not issue a citation to the employer. Although employers must keep the record for five years, the court reasoned that keeping the record and completing it for a specific injury or illness are two different obligations.

The proposed rules are designed to eliminate this distinction and would make the legal standard more in line with OSHA's original interpretation. With the new rules, keeping the injury and illness records accurate and up-to-date would be an ongoing process that does not terminate when the seven-day recording period has passed.

Comments on the proposed rule must be submitted by September 28, 2015.

In other OSHA-related news, the administration has revised its manual on training requirements.