OSHA requires employers to maintain safety records for a period of five years. The Occupational Safety and Health Act contains a six month statute of limitations for OSHA to issue citations to employers for violations. In an effort to close the gap between the five years employers are required to keep records and the six month citation window, the Obama Administration implemented the “Volks Rule,” making recordkeeping requirements a “continuing obligation” for employers and effectively extending the statute of limitations for violations of recordkeeping requirements from six months to five years.
On March 22, 2017, the Senate approved a House Joint Resolution (H.J. Res. 83) nullifying the “Volks Rule” and limiting the statute of limitations to six months for recordkeeping violations. President Trump signed the resolution nullifying the “Volks Rule” on April 3, 2017. The nullification appears to be in line with President Trump’s stated goal of generally eliminating governmental regulations.
What Does This Mean for California Employers?
California manages its own OSHA program, which generally follows the federal program, but is not always in lock-step with Federal OSHA. Cal/OSHA, under its current rules, may only cite employers for recordkeeping violations that occurred during the six months preceding an inspection or review of those records. To date, there has been no indication that California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) has plans to adopt the “Volks Rule.” Barring a change, California employers will continue to operate under the status quo and be required to maintain safety records for five years, but will only be exposed to citations for recordkeeping violations occurring within the last six months.
Current Cal/OSHA Recordkeeping Requirements
Cal/OSHA form 300 (also known as the “OSHA Log 300”) is used to record information about every work-related death and most work-related injuries that cannot be treated with onsite first aid (specific requirements can be found in the California Code of Regulations, Title 8, Sections 14300 through 14300.48). Currently, California Code of Regulations, Title 8, Section 14300.33 requires employers to retain OSHA Log 300 for a period of five years following the end of the calendar year during which the record was created, despite the fact that Cal/OSHA can only cite employers for failing to maintain such records for up to six months preceding an inspection.
Looking to the Future
Cal/OSHA is working on regulations that would require electronic submission of OSHA Log 300 records in California. This would bring Cal/OSHA more in line with Federal OSHA, which already requires electronic submission.