Proper Training for Record Keepers a Must
Employers can be liable for the mistakes of their employees charged with recording injuries and illnesses, making proper training and a full understanding of government regulations a necessity.

U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration(OSHA) record keeping standards require employers to log details about workplace injuries and illnesses, which must be posted annually, and in some cases submitted to OSHA for use in focusing the Administration’s enforcement resources.

In one such case, Emerson Electric Company vs. Secretary of Labor, 19 OSHC (BNA) 1424 (February 2001), the Emerson Electric Co. delegated this duty to a contract nurse who it believed to be a competent record keeper.

In two cases handled by the nurse, two women who worked on Emerson’s assembly line for more than 20 years complained of physical problems in their hands and arms.

The nurse failed to record the occurrence of tennis elbow in one case and failed to document the other woman’s subsequent diagnosis of carpal tunnel syndrome.

Emerson based its defense on the fact that it did not have any knowledge that its nurse omitted information. The administrative law judge (ALJ) in the case disagreed with this assertion, because the company had given the nurse the responsibility of maintaining the logs and determining what needed to be recorded in each case.

Because the nurse had the authority to arrange medical evaluations and treatments for Emerson’s employees, the court considered her a supervisory employee. A previous Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission decision determined that an employee in a supervisory role, even temporarily, is considered to be a supervisor for the purpose of imputing knowledge to an employer, therefore, the ALJ held that the nurse’s knowledge of the two cases should be attributed to Emerson, and the violations against Emerson were affirmed.

This case illustrates that courts can reach their conclusion in such disputes based on actual circumstances and not on the arbitrary labels or levels of responsibility assigned by a company to the party responsible for its record keeping.

Bush Rescinds Contractor Blacklist
The Bush administration recently repealed a rule that would have allowed government agencies to refuse contracts to companies that do not or have been found in the past to not comply with labor, environmental and consumer-protection laws.

The provision, which pushed for tighter limits on companies that receive government contracts, was the result of a promise made by former vice president Al Gore to the AFL-CIO in 1997.

Opponents of the rule claimed that it was too broad and difficult to comply with, because it prohibited companies with even minor legal disputes from doing business with government agencies, and it put procurement officials in the position of judging whether or not companies had violated the law.

Products Cannot Claim to Kill Anthrax
There are no disinfectant products currently registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that are permitted to make the claim that they may be used to destroy anthrax spores, according to agency reports.

EPA has even gone so far as to state that the results of the Sporicidal Test of the Association of Analytical Communities cannot presently be used to claim that a product is effective against anthrax, so even products that are registered as sterilants and sporicidals cannot make such claims.

For more information on anthrax decontamination, visit the EPA’s Web site. This site contains an anthrax link that includes a section on new methods, technologies and chemicals that are being developed to combat the bacteria.

Say Goodbye to Soft Money
If the campaign finance legislation passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on February 15 is enacted, fund raising through soft-money contributions will be against the law.

Soft-money committees were first required to file public reports to the Internal Revenue Service on the amount of their fund raising in 2000.

With the passage of this legislation (H.R. 2356), federal officeholders and candidates would not be allowed to operate soft- money entities, and Section 527 organizations would be barred from broadcasting advertisements mentioning a candidate’s name 60 days prior to a general election or 30 days before a primary.

The pending law would not take affect until after election day in November, which would leave Section 527 organizations until then to raise and spend soft money.

The bill has been placed on the Senate legislative calendar and awaits further action.

This information is intended as a summary of legal information and should in no way be construed as legal advice. Contact your attorney before proceeding with any legal action.