History Lesson: Accurate OSHA Recordkeeping Key to Worker Safety and Health

The Senate will vote next week on repealing the Volks rule and thereby making it impossible for OSHA to cite patterns of recordkeeping violations.   The Volks rule restored OSHA’s traditional ability to require employers to maintain accurate records for five years.

Throughout OSHA’s history,  Republican and Democratic administrations have issued major citations for widespread recordkeeping violations. And these are not just useless “red tape” or “paperwork.” These cases have then led to major improvements in workplace safety and health. A few examples are listed below. Note that none of these citations, nor the resulting improvements in workplace safety, would have been possible if OSHA had not been able to cite employers for failing to keep accurate records beyond six months.

  • 1986: OSHA cites Union Carbide for over $1.3 million for violations included recordkeeping. Union Carbide had repeatedly failed to record instance of injuries requiring medical treatment resulting in restricted activity or lost workdays and also failed to provide critical supplemental medical information on asbestos cases.
  • 1986: OSHA cites Chrysler for $910,000 for 182 instances of work-related injuries that had not been recording, including 133 Workers Compensation cases. Assistant Secretary John Pendergrass stated: “We cannot allow complacency by some employers in maintaining accurate and dependable injury records. Recordkeeping must be the cornerstone of any successful safety and health program. ”  As a result of the recordkeeping investigation, OSHA started a comprehensive safety inspection of the entire Chrysler Belvidere plant.
  • 1987: OSHA fines IBP, the nation’s largest meatpacking company $2.59 million for failing to report more than a thousand job-related injuries and illnesses over a two year period. It was, at that time the largest penalty OSHA had ever sought against an employer. IBP was charged with “willfully failing” to record over 1,000 job related injuries and illnesses at its Dakota City, NE plant from January 1985 to December 1986.
  • 1989: OSHA cites Conagra Turkey Co for $1 million for violations including 181 instances of improper recordkeeping. The recordkeeping violations led to expansion of the inspection to include an ergonomic evaluation as well as investigation of other potential safety and health hazards including cumulative trauma disorders affecting 14% of the workforce and resulting in 38 surgeries.  Conagra also failed to report lacerations, dermatitis, fractures, burns, contusions, strains and sprains, hernia and eye and other injuries.
  • 1990: Ford Motor Co. agrees to pay OSHA  $1.2 million for violations and enters into  the most extensive settlement dealing with ergonomics in the history of OSHA, agreeing to make major ergonomic changes in its facilities. The fine was particularly high because Ford had signed an agreement with OSHA in 1987 to clean up record-keeping violations nationwide.
  • 2010: OSHA cites Lowe’s Home Center in Cincinnati and Dayton for $110,000 for continually failing to document and report employee injuries and illnesses.
  • 2010: OSHA fines Lowe’s Rockford Distribution Center $182,000 for willful and repeat violations involving continuous failure to correctly classify injuries or illnesses and not correctly recording the number of days  a worker was away from work duty to injury or illness.
  • 2010: OSHA cites Goodman Manufacturing Co in Houston $1.2 million for failing to record and improperly recording work related injuries and illnesses. The investigation determined that Goodman had either not recorded or failed to properly record the nature and/or duration of 72 percent of employee injuries and illnesses from January 2008 to March 15, 2010 on its log.
  • 2011: OSHA cites Superior Energy Services Inc in Louisiana $337,500 for 38 violation of the OSHA recordkeeping standard.

For more information and talking points, check out Confined Space earlier this week, and this letter sent by the National Employment Law Project (NELP) to the Senate.

We can win this with your help.  Call your Senators. It’s literally a matter of life and death. 

Congress Congressional Review Act Ergonomics Recordkeeping Volks Rule

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