OSHA chief Dr. David Michaels told safety pros at the National Safety Congress he "frankly doesn't believe" in the national injury rates compiled from employer recordkeeping. "In general there are too many incentive programs" skewering data, he said.

"The great irony of the Gulf spill disaster was that on the day of the explosion, the Deepwater Horizon rig was being presented a plaque for seven years without a lost-time injury," he said.

Tremendous growth in the use of contractors is also causing misleading injury rates, said Dr. Michaels. On the day after the BP Texas City, Texas refinery explosion, BP's fatality rate was still zero, he said. That's because the workers killed were contractors, not BP employees. NIOSH's Director Dr. John Howard, speaking along with Dr. Michaels, criticized illness rates. Job-caused illnesses are greatly underreported because of the long latency lag between initial exposure and the onset of disease.