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Worker Deaths: Now You See Them, Now You Don’t

Information and statistics about worker fatalities removed from the home page of OSHA's website.

A long-time safety manager had a story he liked to tell. When asked by his operations manager to forecast the number of injuries for the coming year, the safety manager said, “Zero.” The operations manager, trying to anticipate workers’ compensation costs, downtime, etc., insisted on a number. The safety manager then asked, “If you’re so sure someone is going to get hurt, why don’t you tell me who it is so I can warn him and provide additional training?”

The point being that every injury and every fatality has a name, has a family, has coworkers and friends. In the case of workplace fatality statistics, every number represents a person.

Several years ago, to reinforce that message, OSHA began listing worker fatalities on its website homepage. The workers were listed by name on a scroll on the homepage, along with the cause of the fatality. At the time, OSHA representatives indicated the purpose was to personalize the fatalities, to show them as people, not just numbers. That area of the agency’s homepage also included a running total of fatalities for the year.

On August 25, OSHA removed that information from its homepage and replaced it with an information block titled “OSHA Working With Employers.” In that section, visitors can find information about training, compliance assistance and cooperative and recognition programs. Instead of scrolled list of fatalities, OSHA’s homepage now offers a scrolled list of examples of cooperative programs.

The fatality information, which moving forward only will contain information about fatalities for which employers were cited by the agency, has been moved deeper into the website and has not been updated since June 2.

In an email to Politico, which first reported the change, Department of Labor spokesperson Mandy Kraft said, "The previous listings included fatal incidents that were outside federal OSHA jurisdiction, not work-related or the employer was not cited for a violation related to the incident... We hope that a greater emphasis on the hazards will help employers and employees better understand how and why these incidents occurred, and take the necessary steps to prevent the loss of life at their own workplace.”

The fatality data that once was listed on the homepage can be found here. In January, 33 fatalities were listed. By May and June, only one fatality was listed for each month, with the last fatality listed for June 2.

TAGS: Safety
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