Senate Nixes Volks Rule, an Obama-Era Workplace Safety Rule

Posted in Construction Accidents, Legal Updates

The Senate recently voted to nullify an Obama-era OSHA safety regulation – the so-called “Volks rule” – which extends the time period for OSHA to cite employers for failing to report workplace injuries and illnesses.

OSHA requires all construction firms to maintain a detailed log of jobsite injuries and illnesses over a five year span. However, due to a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, OSHA was only permitted to cite employers for failing to record work-related injuries and illnesses within the six-month statute of limitations set forth in the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. The Volks rule is viewed as the Department of Labor’s response to that decision. The rule changed the applicable time limit, allowing OSHA to issue citations to employers during the entire five-year records retention period. According to OSHA, the rule was meant to clarify the ongoing duty to make and maintain accurate records of injuries or illnesses during the retention period.

Republicans criticized the rule, claiming the Obama administration overstepped its boundaries and that repealing the law will allow companies to focus on employee safety instead of paperwork. Democrats countered that Republicans are downplaying worker safety and that the rule allows OSHA to enforce accurate injury and illness recordkeeping.

The Volks rule became final in December 2016 and became effective in January 2017. The Congressional Review Act allows the repeal of a federal regulation within 60 legislative days of its implementation, by a simple majority. The Senate voted 50-48 to nullify the Volks rule. The House had passed the resolution of disapproval by a 231-191 vote.

President Trump is expected to sign the legislation overturning the regulation.