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House Votes to Limit OSHA's Continuing Obligation Requirement

Mar 06, 2017

On March 1, the House of Representatives voted to overturn a rule by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) that could have opened the door to endless citations of employers by the agency.

The Continuing Obligation provision looked to increase the time period an employer could be cited for recordkeeping issues from six months to more than five years from the date that an incident or accident occurred.

According to The Hill newspaper, the House voted 231 to 191 to roll back the new rule under the Congressional Review Act, which makes it easier for a simple majority of lawmakers to overturn recently published regulations. Six Republicans opposed the measure, while four Democrats supported it. The vote took place on March 1.

The OSH Act currently limits the time period to six months, and it would take Congressional action to change or modify this language, not just an interpretation or enforcement compliance notice from OSHA officials. This rule now heads to the Senate, where a vote and a signature from President Trump could end this interpretation of the OSH act proposed by OSHA.

“The hope is that under the new administration, OSHA will become a better partner with employers and offer compliance assistance and education instead of increasing the number of citations issued by OSHA inspectors and compliance officers through enforcement actions,” said Wes Wheeler, Director of Safety with the National Electrical Contractors Association. “An example of such success is the OSHA Strategic Partnership with the Electrical Transmission and Distribution Industry which demonstrates that working with employers and organizations to train employees and develop best practices for implementation in the workplace is a proactive way to effectively address workplace safety.”

In other OSHA news, the agency missed its deadline to create and open an online portal for employers to report electronically there OSHA logs.

The new electronic reporting requirements that went into effect on Jan. 1 state that employers have until July 1 to send this information directly to OSHA. With the OSHA portal not being available as originally planned, the July 1 date may have to be delayed and extended.

Another item impacted by the administration change is the new rule on Beryllium exposure. It moves the date the rule was originally set to go into effect from March 21, 2017, to May 20 of this year. This 60-day extension has been granted for Congress to review this legislation originally signed by President Obama.