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How does the nullification of the Volks Rule affect you?

Congress recently took a step toward rolling back some of the worker protections established by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) during the Obama administration.

Specifically, the Senate nullified what's commonly referred to as the "Volks Rule." Learn more about what this rule did and how the new resolution blocking it could affect you.

-- What exactly was the Volks Rule?

The Volks Rule was named after a lawsuit that eventually gave OSHA the right to issue citations and fines to employers who failed to record work-related injuries and illnesses going back five years.

Employers have been required for years to keep a five-year record of workplace illnesses and injuries -- OSHA could use those records to help evaluate the safety of a given workplace. The Volks Rule didn't change that -- it just made employers more accountable for their failure to comply by fining them.

-- What does the new congressional ruling change?

Under the new resolution passed by Congress, OSHA can no longer issue a citation or fine past the statutory six-month period.

Now, if OSHA determines that employers have been failing to maintain adequate records over the last five years, the agency is essentially powerless to punish the behavior. Since OSHA has limited manpower and resources, it really has no ability to check every business every six months for compliance. Many employers may gamble on not keeping good records and get away with it.

-- What should you do to protect yourself?

If you work in an industry where employee safety could be a constant concern, like construction or manufacturing, you may want to step up your own personal record keeping.

If you end up sick due to the exposure to a workplace contaminant or injured due to a preventable accident, it may be helpful to have your own personal records -- even something like a journal -- that document the problems that others have experienced with workplace illnesses or safety.

Many people speculate that the only change that's going to happen is that employers won't lose sleep over a mistake in record keeping, but the Volks Rule gave OSHA more teeth when it came to enforcing and documenting worker safety. Now, workers may be far more on their own.

If you've been injured or sickened due to poor workplace conditions, an attorney can help you learn more about your legal options. .

Source: Insurance Journal, "Congress Nullifies Obama Workplace Injury Reporting Rule," March 24, 2017

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