Tuesday, November 12, 2013

New OSHA Rule Moves Toward Public Real-Time Company By Company Injury Statistics

                   OSHA’s Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety & Health Dr. David Michaels announced a new OSHA rule entitled “Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses” which will require 478,000 U. S. employers of 20 or more employees to electronically report illness and injury rates to the agency once annually, or quarterly for employers with over 250 workers. OSHA plans to eventually post the data on line, creating a public, facility specific database of workplace injury information for regulators, workers, competitors and prospective employees.
                    According to Michaels, such a database would have several advantages:
·                                   It will allow employers to benchmark their injury rates against others in the same industry and against worldwide industrial injury data generally.
·                                     It will allow government agencies, owners and developers hiring contractors to compare and contrast safety statistics among bidders for their work.
·                                       It will allow contractors with exemplary safety records to have bragging rights over their competitors.
·                                It will allow companies with good safety records to become “employers of choice” among people looking for work within their industries.
·                                       It will push employers to find and remedy safety and health hazards before illness or injury occurs.

     Michaels admits that OSHA and its various state government counterparts taken together have only enough staff to inspect each of the nation’s workplaces subject to OSHA jurisdiction only once every 100 years. Creation of the database should enable regulators to focus enforcement efforts on high risk industries and facilities.
                    The National Association of Manufacturers has already announced its opposition to the proposed rule. NAM Director of Labor and Employment Policy Amanda Wood denies that publishing company specific and facility specific injury statistics would “further the end game to achieve safer workplaces.”
                    “Discussing specific injury and illness data could lead to unfair characterizations of businesses by people who just see a statistic and don’t know the circumstances behind it,” Wood said. “We need best practices, not additional regulations, at this time.”

                    OSHA has scheduled a public hearing on the proposed rule in Washington, D. C. January 9, 2014, and public comment on the rule closes February 6.
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