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Congress reduces how long employers must keep incident reports

One of President Obama's last acts in office was to issue a rule requiring large companies in hazardous industries to retain records of worker health and safety incidents for five years. This was already an Occupational Safety and Health Administration policy. However, the presidential action solidified it. OSHA says that it helps them spot recurring health and safety issues and therefore assign their limited resources more effectively.

Now the Republican-led Congress has voted to repeal that regulation. The Senate vote of 50-48 came after the House passed a similar bill. Invoking a little-used (until recently) "resolution of disapproval," they were able to pass it with a simple majority and the minority party (the Democrats) could not filibuster it.

This procedure has been used in the current congressional term to repeal a number of Obama administration regulations, including one that would make it difficult for companies with a history of endangering workers from getting federal contracts.

This latest repeal would mean that employers now only have to retain these records for six months. Former OSHA officials say that this isn't enough time for the agency to catch potentially dangerous patterns occurring in individual companies or in a specific industry.

Further, they say, employers won't have as much incentive to accurately report illnesses and injuries since the likelihood of the government being able to review them will be significantly reduced. As one former OSHA official noted, "This will give license to employers to keep fraudulent records and to willfully violate the law with impunity."

Given President Trump's calls to significantly decrease the number of government regulations that companies are required to follow, it's likely that he'll sign the repeal bill when it reaches his desk.

As workplace safety regulations are overturned, it's more essential than ever that employees do whatever is in their power to help ensure a safer work environment for themselves and their colleagues. This includes reviewing your legal options if you are injured or sickened because of an employer's actions or negligence.

Source: Huffington Post, "Republicans Just Made It Easier For Employers To Hide Workplace Injuries," Dave Jamieson, March 22, 2017

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