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Republicans move to overturn OSHA records rule

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A Republican U.S. House of Representatives lawmaker has introduced a resolution to overturn a controversial U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration rule that obligates employees to keep injury and illness records for five years. 

H.J. Res 83, a resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act, introduced Tuesday, targets OSHA’s rule that clarifies that employers have a continuing obligation to make and maintain an accurate record of each recordable injury and illness for five years. 

The rule, which became effective Jan. 18, was OSHA’s attempt to affirm a long-held agency stance that has been upheld by the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission in cases dating back to 1993, but was rejected by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in 2012 in AKM L.L.C. v. Secretary of Labor (Volks). The court slapped down the agency’s attempt to cite and fine Volks Constructors for failing to properly record certain workplace injuries and maintain its injury log more than six months after the last unrecorded injury occurred.

Republicans have consistently called on OSHA to improve its enforcement efforts and collaborate with employers to address gaps in safety, Rep. Bradley Byrne, R-Ala., chairman of the subcommittee on workforce protections who introduced the resolution, said Tuesday in a statement. 

“Unfortunately, the Obama administration consistently doubled down on failed, punitive policies that do more to tie small businesses in red tape than protect workers,” he said. “With this rule, OSHA rewrote federal law while doing nothing to improve worker health and safety. Congress must reject this unlawful power grab and encourage the agency to adopt the responsible, proactive safety approach that America's workers deserve.”

The Volks rule was seen by legal experts as potentially vulnerable to revocation under the Congressional Review Act, which gives the legislature 60 legislative days to disapprove of a regulation. The statute has been rarely invoked because it requires either presidential approval to enact a resolution of disapproval or a two-thirds supermajority vote to overcome a presidential veto. 

The Congressional Review Act has only been successfully used once to undo a federal agency regulation before this year. The agency it was used against: the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. In 2001, President George W. Bush and Congress used the 1996 law to derail OSHA’s efforts to regulate ergonomics via a formal standard.