In 2012, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration lost a critical case in AKM LLC v. Secretary of Labor, in which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled the federal regulator can’t cite employers for failure to record work-related injuries and illnesses more than six months after the initial obligation to record the case occurred.
Previously, the commission had held it had up 5.5 years to bring such cases, and taken numerous employers to task with hefty fines and penalties for failure to do so. There was great concern after that decision would result in companies being lax on record-keeping duties.
Now, OSHA has announced it’s proposing to amend it’s record-keeping rules to reinforce the duty to record illness or injury for as long as the employer must keep records of recordable injury or illness. That time is five years.
In the latest notice of the Federal Register, the notice of proposed rule is entitled as a clarification. It notes that an employer’s duty to keep records of employee illness or injury doesn’t expire simply because an employer fails to create the necessary records when it’s first required to do so.
The court in its 2012 ruling was relying on Section 9(c) of the OSH Act, which provides a six-month statute of limitations for the “occurrence of any violation.” However, OSHA had always held that the violations continue for so long as workers are exposed to the hazard posed by the non-compliant workplace, and failure to record illnesses or injuries do create a hazard to workers, OSHA held. Companies do have to retain OSHA logs, incident reports and annual summaries of worker illnesses and injuries for five years.
Now, the new proposed rule would not create additional obligations for recording where employers weren’t already required to do so, but it does clarify the obligation companies already had under OSHA’s previous practice.
While records may not seem to have a major impact on worker health and well-being, OSHA insists it does. The first way it does this is by providing information to employers, which makes companies better aware of the sorts of illnesses and injuries that occur among workers and the causes or contributions. That’s the first step in prevention. Companies can also use this information to track the effectiveness of certain protective measures.
For employees, having access to those records available throughout the five-year retention period allows them to be better aware of the work-related injuries and illnesses they personally face. Those who are aware of certain hazards are more likely to report such hazards to their bosses and also to adhere to safe work practices to avoid the same kind of injury or illness to themselves.
Finally, OSHA says access to these five-year records are a way for the agency to enhance its enforcement efforts, help identify the most dangerous kinds of work sites as well as the most prevalent dangers.
If you have been injured at work, contact the Lee Law Offices at 800-887-1965.
OSHA proposes tightening injury record-keeping rules, July 29, 2015, By Stephanie Goldberg, Business In ance
More Blog Entries:
Study: New Nurses at Higher Risk of Work Injury in North Carolina, U.S., Aug. 2, 2015, Asheville Work Injury Lawyers