OSHA recordkeeping violations limited to 6 months, court rules

Washington – An appellate court rejected OSHA’s view that the agency can cite an employer for recordkeeping violations after the six-month statute of limitations set out in the Occupational Safety and Health Act has expired.

In its April ruling (.pdf file), the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit vacated citations against industrial contractor AKM LLC that alleged the company failed to record injuries and illnesses.

The citations were issued in November 2006 for violations that occurred between January 2002 and April 2006. Lawyers for the secretary of labor argued the citations were the result of "continuing violations" that constituted an exception to the statute of limitations because the company’s recordkeeping obligations remained unmet.

But the court asserted Congress never intended for the OSH Act’s statute of limitations to be ignored, which means the citations issued were untimely. The court further suggested that the secretary’s interpretation could be expanded limitlessly to allow for OSHA citations for a decades-old recordkeeping violation, adding there would be “truly no end to such madness.”

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