WASHINGTON, D.C. | February 21, 2017
Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-AL), chairman of the Subcommittee on Workforce Protections, today introduced a resolution of disapproval (H. J. Res 83) under the Congressional Review Act to overturn an unlawful power grab by the Obama administration and reject a failed approach to workplace safety. The resolution would block the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) unlawful “Volks” rule from taking effect and encourage a more proactive approach to worker health and safety policies.
Chairman Byrne released the following statement upon introduction of the resolution:
Every worker deserves safe and healthy working conditions, and bad actors who put hardworking men and women in harm’s way must be held accountable. That’s why Republicans have consistently called on OSHA to improve its enforcement efforts and collaborate with employers to address gaps in safety.
Unfortunately, the Obama administration consistently doubled down on failed, punitive policies that do more to tie small businesses in red tape than protect workers. 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.
BACKGROUND: Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act), employers are required to record and maintain a log of workplace injuries and illnesses that occur during a five-year span. While OSHA inspectors have long used this information to enhance health and safety protections in America’s jobsites, the law explicitly says that employers can only be cited for record-keeping violations within a six-month time period. Yet during the waning days of the Obama administration, OSHA rewrote the law through regulatory fiat. The agency finalized the “Volks” rule, which extends the threat of penalty up to five years.
Two federal appeals courts have rejected the very policies reflected in the rule after a Louisiana construction company was cited for paperwork errors occurring nearly five years prior. “We do not believe Congress expressly established a statute of limitations only to implicitly encourage the Secretary to ignore it,” the D.C. Circuit Court noted. The “Volks” rule:
- Is an unlawful power grab. Congress has the authority to write laws — not government agencies. The OSH Act explicitly states that an employer may only be cited for failing to keep proper health and safety records within six months. Two federal appeals courts have agreed that the statute of limitations is six months.
- Does nothing to improve worker health and safety. Instead of focusing on paperwork errors that occurred five years ago, OSHA should spend its time and resources addressing current working conditions and preventing injuries and illnesses from happening in the future.
- Creates regulatory confusion for small businesses. By finalizing an unlawful regulation, the Obama administration created significant uncertainty for employers. The rule particularly hurts small business owners who will face a confusing maze of record-keeping standards and unwarranted litigation.
Under the Congressional Review Act, Congress may pass a resolution of disapproval to prevent, with the full force of law, a federal agency from implementing a rule or issuing a rule that is substantially the same without congressional authorization. Chairman Byrne’s resolution (H. J. Res 83) would block OSHA’s “Volks” rule from taking effect and prevent future administrations from promulgating a similar rule.
For a copy of the resolution, click here.
To read a fact sheet, click here.
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