In a much anticipated decision, the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (Commission) has ruled that OSHA can enforce its requirement for employers to record work-related injuries and illnesses on the OSHA 300 Log even when the employer’s duty to record the injuries and illnesses occurred more than six months before the issuance of the citation. The employer in the case had argued that the six month statute of limitations in the Occupational Safety and Health Act for OSHA to enforce violations of the Act prohibited OSHA from enforcing recordkeeping violations that occurred beyond that six month period. The Commission disagreed, however, and by doing so has reiterated for employers the need to continually review their recordkeeping logs to ensure the entries are accurate.
Under OSHA’s recordkeeping rule, employers are required to enter a recordable injury on the OSHA 300 Log within seven days of the occurrence of the injury. Employers must also retain their logs for five years and under OSHA’s rule, there is an obligation for employers to go back and update entries should the circumstances surrounding them change. In an earlier decision, Johnson Controls, Inc., the Review Commission had ruled that OSHA could cite employers for inaccurate entries until the entries were corrected or until the end of the five year retention period, whichever is longer. The employer in the case at issue argued that Johnson Controls should be overturned for several reasons, including the Supreme Court’s decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., Inc., 550 U.S. 618 (2007), which had held that an employee’s discrimination claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was time-barred. The Review Commission rejected the employer’s arguments, however, and held that under OSHA’s recordkeeping rule, an inaccurate entry on the OSHA 300 Log constitutes a continuing violation of the rule throughout the entire five year retention period.
For employers, the decision reiterates the need to integrate into their recordkeeping procedures a mechanism to ensure they go back and continually evaluate the accuracy of entries — during the entire retention period. It is not enough to record an injury within seven days and then "forget" about it. OSHA expects employers to be diligent in updating recordkeeping entries for accuracy and may cite employers who are not.