Fox & Farley, Attorneys at Law

OSHA seeks to make accident & injury data publicly available

In addition to conducting inspections and issuing citations for safety violations, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration also searches for ways to make employers more personally accountable for maintaining safety and preventing accidents. To that end, OSHA recently proposed a new rule that is already proving to be controversial and unpopular among business owners.

The idea is simple enough: companies with a certain number of employees would be required to electronically submit workplace accident and injury data, and then make that same data available to the public online.

OSHA hopes that public disclosure of safety data will accomplish several things. First, it will allow employees of a given company to verify that their particular accident/injury was reported to OSHA. Second, it will allow potential employees to see if the company has a good safety record and is therefore a desirable place to work. Third, it will allow companies to see how their own safety record compares to that of other businesses. Finally, it will help OSHA focus its limited enforcement resources on companies that need the most oversight and intervention.

Critics of the proposal argue that OSHA’s “naming and shaming” tactic would hurt businesses and may not actually improve workplace safety. Some say that businesses might try to suppress information due to concerns about being publicly ridiculed.

It is true that publicly available safety data might result in some bad press, but only for companies that fail to protect worker safety. Businesses with an outstanding safety record would likely attract both customers and job applicants. As a general rule, transparency and disclosure are only harmful to those with something to hide.

If the proposed rule is enacted, reactions here in Tennessee may be mixed. On one hand, worker safety is very important and should always be protected. On the other hand, Tennessee prides itself on being a business-friendly state.

If given the choice, would you vote to enact OSHA’s proposed rule or strike it down?

Source: Forbes, “Will OSHA’s Shame Game Improve Workplace Safety?” Howard Mavity and Janet Novak, Jan. 8, 2014

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