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House Overturns OSHA’s Unlawful Power Grab

The House today passed 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. Introduced by Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-AL), chairman of the Subcommittee on Workforce Protections, the resolution would block the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) “Volks” rule from taking effect. The rule violates the policies of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) and fails to improve worker protections.

“OSHA’s power grab is not only unlawful, it does nothing to improve workplace safety. What it does do is force small businesses to confront even more unnecessary red tape and unjustified litigation,” Chairman Byrne said. “As Republicans have been saying for years, OSHA should collaborate with employers to prevent injuries and illnesses in workplaces and address any gaps in safety that might exist. I am pleased the House has acted to block this unlawful rule, and look forward to continuing our efforts to support proactive safety policies that help keep America’s workers safe.”

“Congress has a responsibility to ensure the policies put forward by OSHA not only respect the rule of law, but also improve the health and safety of our nation’s workplaces. Remarkably, the Obama administration’s Volks rule fails on both counts,” Chairwoman Foxx said. “This rule rewrites the law through executive fiat, creating legal uncertainty for small businesses while doing nothing to strengthen protections for workers. I commend Representative Byrne for his leadership in overturning this unlawful rule and urge the Senate to take up this resolution. Our committee will continue to demand responsible policies that ensure all Americans enjoy the safe and healthy workplaces they deserve.”

BACKGROUND: Under Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) regulations, 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.

The very policies reflected in the rule have been rejected by a federal appeals court after a Louisiana construction company was wrongly cited for alleged paperwork errors. “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 issuing unlawful regulations, OSHA should spend its time and resources collaborating with employers to address existing workplace conditions and prevent 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.

To read the resolution, click here.

To read a fact sheet, click here.

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