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OSHA proposes tightening injury record-keeping rules

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The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued a notice of proposed rulemaking to clarify that employers have continuing obligations to keep and maintain accurate injury and illness records.

In a Tuesday statement, OSHA said it’s proposing to amend its record-keeping regulations to reinforce that “the duty to record an injury or illness continues for as long as the employer must keep records of the recordable injury or illness,” which is five years.

An employer’s duty doesn’t expire “just because the employer fails to create the necessary records when first required to do so,” the proposed rule states.

According to OSHA’s statement, the rule was proposed because of a 2012 decision in AKM L.L.C. v. Secretary of Labor (Volks), which stated that OSHA citations for record-keeping violations must be issued within six months of an alleged failure to record the injury or illness. The agency previously said it had as long as 5½ years to issue violations.

Despite proposed changes to existing provisions, the amendment wouldn’t change compliance obligations or require employers to keep records of injuries or illnesses they aren’t currently required to keep, the proposed rule states.

“Accurate records are not simply paperwork, but have an important, in fact life-saving purpose,” David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health, said in the statement. “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.”

Employers are currently required to record work-related injuries and illnesses that result in death, the loss of consciousness, days away from work, restricted work activity or job transfer, medical treatment beyond first aid, or a diagnosis of a significant injury or illness by a physician or other licensed health care professional, according to the rule.

Written comments to the proposed rule must be submitted by Sept. 27.