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Safety 2016: Dr. David Michaels: Public Recordkeeping Will Reduce Incidents

June 30, 2016
Dr.David Michaels outlined OSHA’s plans to reduce the number of workplace safety injuries in his address to Safety 2016 attendees.

Dr. David Michaels outlined OSHA’s continuing plans to reduce the number of workplace safety injuries in his address to Safety 2016 attendees.

He first touched on OSHA’s Severe Injury Reporting Program which requires employers to notify the agency about any hospitalizations or amputations within 24 hours, a requirement which took effect on January 1, 2015.

In its first year, 10,388 severe injuries were reported – 2,644 amputations and 7,646 hospitalizations. There was an average of 30 worker injuries every day of 2015.

“Every employer should know, if you have a severe injury, you have to call OSHA,” Michaels said. “This engages thousands of employers who normally wouldn’t be talking to OSHA.”

Employers addressed the majority of safety hazards with internal investigations rather than an OSHA inspection, a measure that will help the agency in the future, he said.

The agency will also increase its maximum penalties for serious violations. The new penalty levels will move the maximum for serious and other-than-serious posting requirements to $12,471 per violation from $7,000, a willful or repeated violation to $124,709 per violation from $70,000 and a failure to abate violation to $12,471 per day, up from $7,000 per day.

With the penalty increases, Michaels also touched on OSHA’s implementation of Anti-retaliation Provisions set to go into effect on August 10, 2016.

The provisions require employers to post new information regarding their rights to report workplace injuries and illnesses and also inform employees they will be free from retaliation if they do. In addition, employers must not do anything to discourage workers from reporting, and they also may not retaliate if they do.

The culmination of the recent change in reporting requirements, the increase in violations and the implementation of Anti-retaliation Provisions is the launch of a robust public database which will be rolled out in the next couple years.

“We’re going to have a public discussion about worker injuries,” he said.

Michaels compared the new public database to food inspection ratings restaurants receive, an application of behavioral economics.

“We’re now applying this to safety hoping to have a bigger impact,” he said.

Companies with a history of workplace injuries and illnesses will have a difficult time attracting quality employees, and candidates will be able to research and make better decisions given access to data about which workplaces are safer than others.

The goal is to also make injury data more complete and accurate to assist employers with a roadmap for identifying potential hazards, he said.

 “No one should be hurt on the job,” Michaels said. “No one goes to their job to get hurt.”

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