Short-Lived 'Volks Rule' No Longer in Effect

By William Atkinson | Apr 15, 2017




On the mind of many employers over the past year or so has been what was informally known as the "Volks Rule," a regulatory response by OSHA to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia's ruling in the "Volks Constructors v. Secretary of Labor" (2012) case that OSHA could not issue citations to employers for failing to record injuries or illnesses beyond the six-month statute of limitations as set out in the OSH Act.

In response to the court's ruling, OSHA officials proposed the Volks Rule in July 2015 and finalized it in December 2016. It took effect on Jan. 18, 2017, just before the end of the Obama administration.

The Volks Rule stipulated that recordkeeping requirements are a "continuing obligation" and permitted OSHA to cite employers for failing to record work-related injuries and illnesses during a five-year retention period, instead of the previous six-month statute of limitations.

Immediately following its implementation in January, some House lawmakers felt that OSHA had overstepped its regulatory responsibilities, and they introduced legislation to repeal the Volks Rule. House Joint Resolution 83 was titled, "Clarification of Employer's Continuing Obligation to Make and Maintain Accurate Record of Each Recordable Injury and Illness." It passed the House on March 1.

Shortly after, on March 22, the Senate, in a vote of 50 to 48, adopted the resolution under the Congressional Review Act, a law that empowers Congress to use an expedited legislative process to review new regulations issued by federal government agencies and overrule those regulations with the passage of Joint House and Senate resolutions.

Even prior to the introduction and adoption by the House and Senate, the White House issued a statement on February 28, noting, "The Administration is committed to reducing regulatory burdens on America's businesses, and [the Volks Rule] imposes costs on employers resulting from continuing recordkeeping obligations."

President Trump signed the legislation on April 3, effectively nullifying the Obama administration's Volks Rule.

As a result, employers around the country, including electrical contractors, can no longer be cited by OSHA for injury and illness recordkeeping violations more than six months old.

In response to the legislation, John M. Grau, CEO of NECA, said it will lessen additional burdens on contractors, that the OSHA action did nothing to improve job site safety, and that it would have created an additional administrative task that employers could have been cited for in the future.

"It is an important action that shows that the new Trump administration is willing to address unfair regulations," said Wes Wheeler, NECA's director of safety. "It also demonstrates that the administration believes compliance assistance will benefit workers more than enforcement actions by OSHA."

About The Author

ATKINSON has been a full-time business magazine writer since 1976. Contact him at [email protected]

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