Committee Democrats Introduce Bill to Strengthen Workplace Safety Enforcement

February 18, 2021
Press Release
Legislation coincides with a new Government Accountability Office report that found more than half of employers are violating their legal duty to submit workplace safety reports

As originally released by the Committee on Education & Labor

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Education and Labor Committee Chairman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (VA-03), Workforce Protections Subcommittee Chair Alma Adams (NC-12), Veterans Affairs Committee Chair Mark Takano (CA-41), and Congressman Joe Courtney (CT-02) introduced legislation to strengthen the Occupational Health and Safety Administration’s (OSHA) enforcement of workplace safety laws. The Accurate Workplace Injury and Illness Record Restoration Act would restore OSHA’s ability to effectively identify and cite employers who systematically fail to record and report workplace injuries and illnesses. 

The legislation coincides with the release of a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, which found that more than half of the employers required to report injury and illness data to OSHA on an annual basis  – or more than 200,000 employers each year – have failed to do so over the last three years. This data helps OSHA target its scarce resources on the most dangerous workplaces and provides the public with an overview of workplace injuries at a given employer. The report also found that OSHA has cited only a small handful of employers for failing to report this critical data and has not taken the necessary steps to encourage compliance.

Overall, OSHA citations for employer recordkeeping violations have decreased significantly since 2012. This decline in enforcement is due to a 2012 court decision, which effectively restricted OSHA’s ability to cite continuing recordkeeping violations to just six months from the initial date the injury should have been recorded. In 2017, Republicans passed a Congressional Review Act Resolution of Disapproval repealing an OSHA regulation that would have restored its authority to issue citations for continuing violations up to five-and-a-half years from the initial violation.

The Accurate Workplace Injury and Illness Record Restoration Act reverses the 2017 Congressional Review Act Resolution of Disapproval, reinstates OSHA’s long-standing authority to issue citations for “continuing violations” of injury and illness recordkeeping and other health and safety standards, and directs OSHA to reissue a rule that will ensure the agency can cite recordkeeping violations when there are continuing violations.

“The Government Accountability Office’s findings are alarming, and they point to the urgent need for Congress to strengthen OSHA’s enforcement authority to ensure workplace safety,” said Rep. Takano.“Currently, employers have an obligation to maintain records of work-related injuries and illness to protect workers from hazardous work environments. But if employers are not keeping these records and if OSHA is not enforcing the law, especially after the Trump Administration and court rulings have significantly weakened its authority to do so, workers are the ones at risk. The Accurate Workplace Injury and Illness Restoration Act will help ensure that the health and safety of workers is made a priority, and that employers who violate the law and expose workers to dangerous working conditions are held accountable. Passing this law is critical as the COVID-19 pandemic poses an added risk for workers who may contract the virus while on the job.”

“The new Government Accountability Office report documents how Court decisions, a hostile Congress, and ineffective OSHA enforcement have all combined to undermine a key initiative to help keep workers safe,” said Chairman Scott. “Congress must ensure that OSHA can do its job to protect our nation’s workers, particularly as workers continue to face the heightened risk of contracting COVID-19.  Securing reliable data on workplace safety is critical to OSHA’s mission.  The Accurate Workplace Injury and Illness Record Restoration Act would take an urgent step to restore OSHA’s basic enforcement tools and ensure that workers are safe while on the job.”

“The Accurate Workplace Injury and Illness Record Restoration Act rectifies nearly ten years of systematic efforts to undermine OSHA’s authority and obligation to enforce employer requirements for workplace injury, illness, and safety recordkeeping,” said Rep. Adams. “The new GAO report reveals that, on an annual basis, roughly 200,000 employers have failed to report injury and illness data to OSHA. This is unacceptable and especially concerning in the midst of a pandemic. Now, more than ever, we must be strengthening safeguards for our workers, not rolling them back.”

“Accurate injury and illness data from employers ensure that OSHA inspectors can focus their limited time targeting workplaces that are most dangerous, and enable workers and employers to identify safety problems in the workplace,” said Rep. Courtney. “This bill will reverse a bad policy that severely hampered OSHA’s ability to cite employers for continuing violations of recordkeeping rules. As this new report from GAO shows, we need to fix the loopholes that allow OSHA recordkeeping violations to go unchecked, and provide OSHA, employers and workers with accurate information necessary to protect the health and safety of our workforce.” 

For the full GAO report, click here

For a fact sheet on the Accurate Workplace Injury and Illness Record Restoration Act, click here.

For the bill text of the Accurate Workplace Injury and Illness Record Restoration Act, click here