The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has, over the last three years, introduced new rules requiring employers to collect, submit and publish workplace injury data. These regulations symbolize the agency’s renewed commitment to addressing the myriad health risks modern workers face in American factories, packaging facilities and warehouses.
“Since high injury rates are a sign of poor management, no employer wants to be seen publicly as operating a dangerous workplace,” David Michaels, Ph.D., assistant secretary of labor for OSHA, explained in a news release. “Our new reporting requirements will ‘nudge’ employers to prevent worker injuries and illnesses to demonstrate to investors, job seekers, customers and the public that they operate safe and well-managed facilities.”
For decades, OSHA officials essentially overlooked serious, slow-building workplace health hazards and instead focused on combating more immediate dangers, The New York Times reported. This changed in November 2013 when the agency issued new injury-tracking rules that compelled companies to carefully collect accident data and submit it for public consumption. After an extended commenting period, these mandates went into effect in January 2015. OSHA released its first exhaustive workplace injury report this March – the numbers paint a harrowing picture.
Employers reported 10,388 severe work injuries that resulted in 7,636 hospitalizations and 2,644 amputations. Michaels believes the figures could be twice as high, as the system relies on self-reporting, according to The Washington Post. OSHA simply doesn’t have the manpower it needs to visit worksites around the country and confirm injury reporting data. Still, he believes the new system, which requires employers to report severe injuries within 24 hours and fatalities within eight, has made workplaces safer, especially considering the OSHA’s past modus operandi.
“Too often, we would investigate a fatal injury only to find a history of serious injuries at the same workplace,” Michaels wrote in the 2015 injury report. “Each of those injuries was a wake-up call for safety that went unheeded.”
In May, OSHA issued an addendum to the original injury reporting rule, emphasizing that employers must provide employees and their legal representatives with workplace injury data upon request and keep extensive internal records detailing any significant incidents. This rule is scheduled to take effect on January 1, 2017.