The OSHA website has a fatality ticker with the names and cause of death of workers who were killed on the job this year. It’s both startling and horrific — as the Secretary of Labor says, no one should sacrifice their life for their livelihood.
But what you don’t see on this ticker is the name of the company that may or may not have been responsible for the fatality and that’s about to change.
In August, OSHA will begin adding work place injury data to a public database and the company names will be included.
David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor of occupational safety and health said;
“By making public establishment-specific injury data, we will ‘nudge’ many thousands of employers to increase their efforts to prevent injuries, illnesses and deaths,”
A noble cause, but there are some concerns. The biggest concern is the fact that these blurbs won’t contain the whole story. For example, if an employee has a heart attack and dies while on the job, that will go on the record. What won’t go on the record is the man’s history of heart trouble or any ill-advised behavior he may have been engaging in when it happened.
You can have the most thorough safety program around, but that won’t always stop employees from doing something dumb and / or dangerous. We live in a society that has to have “caution contents are hot” stamped on our coffee cups. Can we make an entire company responsible for the irresponsible actions of others?
Again, no one is saying that workplace safety isn’t important. And if a company has a history of accidents then yes, the public has a right to know. But this new, public database could shed a dark light on a company that really doesn’t deserve it. How will the data be grouped? Will all of the branches of a chain show up under the same heading? Will there be percentages or just numbers? 3 injuries in a year is a lot of I’m running a restaurant with 10 employees. But what if I’m running a factory with 300?
Workplace safety is important. If a public database will push companies into investing more time and money into employee safety, that’s great. But if we want to preserve the reputation of companies who are doing all they can, this public record must have more than just the bare facts.
*The new ruling only applies to certain types of businesses, for full details visit: https://www.osha.gov/recordkeeping/finalrule/index.html