From the field: Reactions to OSHA’s public posting proposal
OSHA has opened an attack on the largest employers with this recordkeeping initiative.
These are the employers who have safety professionals on staff. They are the ones with safety and health management programs. They are "The Best" according to Dr. Michaels in his I2P2 propaganda.
So this new regulatory initiative exposes the Michaels' ruse about I2P2. Michaels is not interested in celebrating "the best," he is interested in citing them to feed his shaming press release engine.
What a crock--but certainly predictable.
This regulatory initiative is a tacit admission that OSHA knows that it has failed in its 40+ year history. OSHA is going to hold up for public ridicule the employers who classically have the best compliance management and response to OSHA regulations. What else can that be but an admission of an OSHA systemic failure?
For years I worked with executives who—despite owning a firm that provided safety services as one of its offering—were completely clueless about the business of safety. One manifestation of their collective ignorance was their insistence that I "go on the computer" and get the injury rates of big companies. Their reasoning was that "that information has to be on line" and they implied that I was either lazy or stupid for not being able to find it, and this was almost ten years ago. The point is, the public (more specifically the shillers of safety goods and services) already assumes or expects that this information is readily available, so I don't think it will be any sort of major change on the public front.
Will this motivate companies to improve their safety records? Not likely. The only thing I have seen that has had a measurable motivation for companies is the increasingly common practice of using injury data as part of the vendor selection process. This practice generally goes far beyond mere injury data and can include requirements that the vendor have a BBS system in place, and sundry (and some would say arbitrary) safety requirements. This is creating an onus on some smaller companies who find themselves with multiple demands from multiple customers, it's a trend I would like to see go away.
Since there is absolutely no negative consequences for under-reporting or juking the stats, I can't see where this will make any difference.
I also agree that the public doesn't really care about workplace safety—a week after a major incident with multiple fatalities people quickly forget about it. There isn't a galvanizing event that is likely to get people to believe that we haven't already gone overboard in worker safety (triple digit fatalities in India mean nothing to the general public). Nothing in workplace safety seems to get the public worked up, so I wouldn't think that this will cause any sort of uproar. Given that injury data isn't available until 3–4 years after it's compiled, is tough to find, and is pretty confusing even to safety professionals, I don't see anyone (even the safety media) caring about this.
As for target marketing, try this experiment. Go to a trade show and visit a vendor booth. Tell the person working there that you really want to talk to their head of marketing, and wait a week. The yahoo who calls you will a) not be head of marketing, and b) be clueless about any interest you expressed. In short, even if this information was mailed to them, most would lack the business acumen to respond to you appropriately.
OSHA doesn't have enough people to appropriately enforce the laws that are already on the books, this won't make any difference.
I don't think it will create a huge pile of big data that is unusable—the Bureau of Labor Statistics does a nice job of putting the data together in a usable format, but it takes three years.
I think the real story here is how nobody really cares about how a company performs in safety and the waning influence of OSHA.
Those of us that have been lifers in the safety profession have to look at all this and think oh >%#* here we go again. Want better safety results? Play the ole ABC theory. Collect a couple of willful citations and the thinking at the top might change. Otherwise, who really cares?
I know who does- the poor SOB scapegoat safety manager who gets blamed for what he/she has absolutely no control over in the workplace. Been there done that and what have I learned? Duck!
Here’s my take: President Obama pushed for greater transparency in the Executive Branch. I seem to recall that OSHA announced, somewhat cryptically, that new data troves were available. However, I have not tried to access them. While citation data is currently available, I have never found it very user friendly. So, OSHA will need to explain why this is going to be better and how it will be different from other data sets currently available. I guess it’s that this data will be simplified and will include far more employers (public, private and Postal) than anything currently available.
For some, it will motivate them to improve, and others will be motivated to show as few injuries and illnesses as possible. I would guess the public would largely ignore it, but for anyone in the workplace health and safety industry, I’d think this type of data would be useful.
Dan Glucksman, ISEA Government Affairs Director
I agree with everyone's thoughts!
It is my personal opinion that sometimes I feel like I am viewing a reality show like “Big Brother.”
James Roughton, CSP, Six Sigma Black Belt
Is this going to motivate companies to improve their safety records? Absolutely not. Do we honestly believe that identifying companies with a scarlet “S” is going to provoke some modification in behavior? Companies know injuries cost them money, which is the greatest incentive to adjust behavior. If we think embarrassing companies to improve safety performance is going to have any impact, we have all obviously taken the Blue pill and are living in the Matrix.
Motivate more under-reporting? No, whatever under-reporting is going on now will continue regardless of this proposal. BTW, what impact has occurred as a result of under-reporting? Again, who cares?
Create more public awareness of workplace safety hazards and issues? The public is not aware nor are they interested in workplace hazards and issues. They could care less. Unless it affects them directly, who cares! And even then, it is a personal matter not a national issue they will champion.
Confuse the public? If they are not interested, how could they become confused? Hum???
Be ignored by the public? Most definitely! As much as the safety and health professions think that public interest would increase the relevancy of these professions, I hate to say the public could care less. You want to increase relevancy, add value to your company in figuring out ways to work safely and stop relying on the public, OSHA, ASSE, AIHA, NSC, ISO, Obama or anyone else. Stop being some adjunct arm of OSHA in your workplace. Start doing it yourself! We need to stop being narcissists and quasi-agents of OSHA.
Will this proposal be a boon for safety consultants in target marketing? Doubt it seriously, although these charlatans will do whatever they can to convince the marketplace that their elixir is the potion of choice. Can’t wait to see yet another version of behavior-based safety introduced to the marketplace.
Will it help OSHA target enforcement and compliance assistance? The data have been there for some time and I am sure OSHA uses it to target enforcement now. So what, it is what it is.
Will it create a huge pile of “Big Data” that will be impenetrable? Well if it is anything like the Obamacare website and the current state of the Social Security Administration website, does it really matter? Who cares about this data, other than academics, possibly?
Will it never make it past the proposal stage due to business opposition and lack of trust in the government’s ability to execute any plan? Why should business care, they already provide the data to OSHA. Making it publicly available is interesting, but a non-event.
This is a non-starter. People feel, if it does not affect me personally, I could care less! This is the world we live in now folks.
I would not make a big deal out of this. If we think Wall Street analyst make investment decisions based on safety performance of a company, we are drinking naïve juice. Spoke to my investment advisors today and asked them if they make investment decisions hinged on a company's safety performance. Their response, “What the hell are you talking about!"
I categorize this proposal in the same venue as I2P2. If OSHA thinks safety is going to improve based on this nonsense, they are sorely mistaken and wasting taxpayers' money.
When the hell is OSHA going to start focusing on regulations that actually might make a difference for the working Joe and Jane? For example, updating and creating new PELs.
I think there is a huge over action here.
I think some background and history is useful. OSHA has been collecting and making publicly available firm specific injury and illness rate information since 1997 through the OSHA Data initiative. That information has been used by OSHA to target inspections in its SST program. The last collection was 80,000 establishments with 20 or more employees in selected high hazard industries. More recent ODI data is available in a searchable OSHA website. https://www.osha.gov/pls/odi/establishment_search.html
To my knowledge in the 16 years this info has been available, there haven’t been any problems with the collection and utilization of this information by OSHA or members of the public.
What OSHA is proposing now is to expand the collection to a larger number of industries/employers and to have the data reported electronically so it is more timely. (The ODI data is two years old by the time OSHA uses it). OSHA is also proposing for large employers of 250 or more employees to get detailed case data so there is more than just a Total rate or DART rate in order to find out what kind of injuries and illnesses are occurring (this was exactly the kind of data the NAS recommended OSHA get back in 1986 when it looked at this issue). MSHA has been requiring the reporting of the same kind of detailed information from all mining operators for years. All of the data is publicly available on the web and has been for years.
So there is nothing new here. It’s one more tool to try to identify workplaces with serious safety and health problems and to try to prevent workers from being injured and killed. Those who are serious about trying to use data and information to identify hazardous workplaces, serious risks and emerging problems will use the data to protect workers. Those who have no interest won’t.
AFL-CIO Safety and Health
I am amused with people who can only see narrow negativity why things can’t work, and fail to see that OSHA has created a new 21st century era for Federal Regulation of Workplace Safety with this proposal, whether it ever gets finalized or not.
OSHA’s impact overall is not on large companies as much as it is the smaller companies 100 - 250. Those companies don't have a safety professional on-site. The large companies know they need to do the right thing; they have a reputation to protect.
Initially, we'll probably have some group like PIRG comb through the collected data to see who they can sue, but it will largely ignored until something serious happens.
Sign me - Disillusioned.
Is this going to motivate companies to improve their safety records? I doubt it, unless the public exposure is viewed as a potential liability in the market or in some tangible sense that will impact revenue.
Motivate more under-reporting? Quite possibly, and may well involve organizational legal counsel to craft reporting strategies.
Create more public awareness of workplace safety hazards and issues? Possibly, but with selected focus and targeting based on interest and depending on the drivers for being interested.
Confuse the public? Probably.
Be ignored by the public? To a large extent, yes; I believe the public will pay little attention
Be a boon for safety consultants in target marketing? Where no boon exists, one may be created.
Help OSHA target enforcement and compliance assistance? Ostensibly, but the steps from concept to execution will be fraught with pitfalls
Create a huge pile of “Big Data” that will be impenetrable? Potentially enormous piles of data that can be mined but to what end? Policy or programmatic changes would seem unlikely as a result of the plan
Never make it past the proposal stage due to business opposition and lack of trust in the government’s ability to execute any plan? This is probably a fairly safe bet… or it may turn into one of those “all mach but no heading” effort where the agency doesn’t know where it’s going, but it’s making great time.
One wonders what the underlying strategy is, and what the tactical approach will be that will make the juice worth the squeeze.
The aspect of transparency will certainly drive improvement. We have seen that clearly with sustainability reporting and the environmental metrics. I have also witnessed this when when we did internal (and external) reporting. Our internal metrics were widely distributed to all sites, managers, directors and a short version to the Executive Committee monthly and everyone knew everyone performance, hence competition among the site and divisions for establishing good records. You should also know that we had extreme penalties for under-reporting.
They say the “Devil” is in the details. It is very clear that OSHA reporting is highly complicated with a huge amount of interpretation and legalese (just look at the OSHA guidance on reporting). My biggest concern is the government, which has not demonstrated any skills at electronic reporting, will have some difficulties in establishing the form and format for the reporting.
With that said, in principle, this is a good idea and something that is already done in many, many areas for hazardous materials releases, etc.
I have been following the comments and agree with a lot that has been said. Most notably: Those that comply will, those that don’t won’t.
My experience has been that the smaller companies (less than 250 employees) were most likely to have incidents. This is for a variety of reasons, lack of financial resources being a big contributor.
My question then is, “If that is true, how will this proposed initiative help the needy?”
Larry Curtis, CSHM
Executive Director, Institute for Safety and Health Management (ISHM)
This is just another example of how out if touch OSHA is with safety in America.
Again the most of American workers are left out in the cold and the workers that need the help will once again NOT get it.
OSHA is again playing with paperwork, trying to look like they are doing something and yet not. ALL injury records should be released not just the biggest companies. These companies can afford safety folks and spend millions of dollars every year on safety.
Their numbers will not reflect the true safety picture in America, they reflect a limited view of safety. Why not publish the smaller companies -- that would give you a better understanding of what safety is all about. BUT again, if this was done by OSHA, OSHA would have to work and that's not going to happen. OSHA truly is only a PAPER TIGER, same old same old. I have watched these guys for 20 years now and am not surprised by this move. I don't know if I will ever see it change.