Employers that do not make and maintain accurate records of employee injuries and illnesses can be cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for up to six months after the five-year record-retention period expires, according to a new rule issued Dec. 19. The rule becomes effective Jan. 18.

The rule, an amendment to OSHA’s recordkeeping regulations, is a clarification of employers’ obligations and does not require employers to keep any new records of injuries or illnesses for which records are not already required, according to OSHA.

“This rule simply returns us to the standard practice of the last 40 years,” Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health David Michaels, Ph.D., M.P.H., said in a statement. “It is important to keep in mind that accurate records are not just paperwork; they have a valuable and potentially life-saving purpose.”

OSHA long has maintained that employers have a duty to record an injury or illness continues for five years after the end of the calendar year in which the injury or illness became recordable, according to the text of the rule. “This means that if an employer initially fails to record a recordable injury or illness, the employer still has an ongoing duty to record that case; the recording obligation does not expire simply because the employer failed to record the case when it was first required to do so,” the rule states.

For that reason, according to OSHA, the final rule does not run afoul of the six-month statute of limitations contained in the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970.