OSHA recently issued a regulation that requires employers to keep injury and illness records for five years.
This final rule is a response to a 2012 DC Circuit Court decision. This decision said that by law OSHA could only require companies to keep injury records for six months. However, OSHA 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 and its fines were eventually overturned.
The DC Circuit said OSHA’s error was not citing Volks for the loss or destruction of a record. Instead, the agency cited the employer for failing to create a record in the first place.
What changes for employers? Keeping injury records isn’t anything new. What will change is that OSHA will have an additional avenue for recordkeeping fines over what it had after the Volks ruling. OSHA will now be able to cite companies for failure to record an injury going back up to five years instead of just six months.
The final rule takes effect Jan. 18, 2017.
Why does OSHA want you to keep injury records for five years? When the rule was proposed, OSHA chief David Michaels said, “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.”
When the Volks case started to make its way through the appeals system, the National Federation of Independent Business argued that allowing OSHA to look back as many as five years for recordkeeping violations was an unfair burden on small- and medium-size businesses.
OSHA says this new rule is just a return to pre-Volks status. The final rule doesn’t require employers to record any injuries or illnesses that they weren’t already required to record.