On April 3, 2017, President Trump signed a bill repealing the Obama-era Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) rule, “Clarification of Employer’s Continuing Obligation to Make and Maintain Accurate Records of Each Recordable Injury and Illness.” The worker safety rule implemented by the Obama administration clarified that employers would be penalized for failing to keep records of work-related injuries and illnesses for five years. The rule amended recordkeeping regulations in response to a 2012 D.C. Court of Appeals decision which held OSHA only had six months to issue a citation from the time the recordkeeping violation occurred. The clarifying rule was finalized in December 2016 and became effective in January 2017.
The Trump administration bill not only repeals the clarifying rule and shortens the window to issue citations, but also prohibits OSHA from implementing a rule in substantially the same form as the nullified rule. However, OSHA recordkeeping regulations still impose a continuing obligation on employers to make and maintain accurate records of workrelated injuries and illnesses for five years following the end of the calendar year they cover. Effectively, while covered employers are still required to maintain injury and illness records for five years, OSHA can no longer issue citations for failing to keep records beyond six months.
Critics of Trump’s bill warn the repeal will shorten the time employers will keep accurate records of injuries to just six months instead of the required five years. They claim that without the threat of penalties, companies will be able to skew employee injury/illness data and conceal workplace hazards. Labor groups, including AFL-CIO, further claim the shortened time makes the recordkeeping regulation impossible to enforce and OSHA will have a difficult time finding the violations before the six-month window expires.
Supporters of Trump’s bill, including the Chamber of Commerce and other business groups, claim the Obama-era clarifying rule was nothing more than an unlawful power grab by OSHA and that it improperly subjected businesses to citations for paperwork violations rather than improving worker health and safety.