The Life & Death of the Volks Rule
Hello and goodbye, Volks rule. In April, President Donald Trump signed a joint resolution passed by the US House and Senate nullifying a short-lived regulation enacted by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
The regulation, commonly referred to as the “Volks” rule, was prompted by the outcome of a 2012 court case: AKM LLC d/b/a Volks Constructors v. Sec’y of Labor, 675 F.3d 752 (D.C. Cir. 2012). In Volks, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that OSHA could not issue citations for injury or illness recordkeeping violations past the 6-month statute of limitations established in the Occupational Safety and Health Act.
OSHA disagreed with the court’s decision, and fought back by creating a rule that essentially said, yes, the Administration could issue citations after the first 6 months, and for up to 5-and-a-half years (the same length of time organizations are required to keep records) after the workplace injury or illness.
The Volks rule went into effect in January 2017—the same month Trump assumed office—and Republicans in the House and Senate wasted no time striking it down.
To recap: OSHA wanted to penalize companies for recordkeeping violations more than six months after the fact, but the Court of Appeals said, “no, you can’t do that.” OSHA responded with “yes, we sure can,” and enacted a rule saying so. And then the House and Senate was all, “actually, OSHA, you can’t enact that rule,” and President Trump was like, “they’re right—end of conversation.” And there you have it: our legislative system in action.
The Volks rule’s abrupt end limits OSHA’s regulatory authority somewhat, but it does not invalidate recordkeeping requirements overall. Organizations must still record workplace-related injuries or illnesses within 7 days, and retain those records for 5 years after the 6-month enforcement period. It’s another reminder that even under an Administration opposed to regulations in the abstract, organizations still need to ensure their compliance and stay up to date with the latest regulatory news and developments.
Volks rule, we hardly knew ye. Depending on one’s perspective, that might be for the best.