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OSHA Agreed to Focus on Compliance Assistance Rather than Enforcement

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) recently announced a resolution of issues raised by NAM in a lawsuit last March concerning OSHA's revised recordkeeping rule. The settlement assures that the rule will take effect as scheduled on January 1, 2002.

A key provision in the settlement is the agreement that OSHA compliance officers will focus initially on compliance assistance, rather than enforcement. As a result, no citations will be issued for violations of the recordkeeping rule during the first 120 days after January 1, 2002, provided employers strive to meet their recordkeeping obligations and agree to make corrections necessary to bring their records into compliance.

NAM filed a lawsuit in March 2001 challenging a number of provisions in OSHA's revised recordkeeping rule. As part of the settlement NAM will withdraw its challenge. OSHA has agreed to clarify certain provisions in the rule.

One of the principal issues in NAM's lawsuit was what constitutes a work-related injury. In the settlement, OSHA explains that a case is work-related if, and only if, a work event or exposure is a discernible cause of the injury or illness, or of a significant aggravation to a pre-existing condition and none of the rule's exceptions to work-relatedness applies. Employers must determine whether it is more likely than not that work events or exposures caused or contributed to the injury or illness, or significantly aggravated a pre-existing condition. Should an employer decide a case is not work-related, and OSHA subsequently issues a citation for failure to record, the burden of proof would then be on OSHA to show the injury or illness was work-related.