OSHA’s “nudge” to employers for improved workplace safety

Work accident

Work accidentWith fatal job-related injuries rising to their highest level in seven years, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has been releasing new regulations in what it describes as a “nudge” to help employers be more mindful of safety for their employees.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), worker death rates climbed to 4,821 in 2015 — making it the highest number of employees killed because of job-related injuries since 2008.

The most recent OSHA changes include:

Modernizing data collection

Under this new rule, which goes into effect Jan. 1, 2017, employers will need to electronically submit data about workplace injuries. This will change the way data related to workplace hazards is collected and disseminated so that workers, employers, OSHA and the public are better informed about workplace hazards. While OSHA already requires most employers to record injuries and illnesses related to the workplace, that information from individual employers has not been available to the public or OSHA. The new rule will require companies operating in high hazard conditions to regularly send that data to OSHA, allowing it to be made public on its website. The information also will help provide insights to researchers on how to make job sites safer.

Keeping workers protected when reporting injuries

Another rule provides updates on an employer’s obligation to keep employees informed of their rights to report work-related injuries and illnesses without fear of retaliation. Under the rule, the procedure must be “reasonable and not deter or discourage employees from reporting.”

“The new system will ’nudge’ employers to prevent worker injuries and illnesses to demonstrate to Investors, job seekers, customers and the public they operate safe and well-managed facilities,” said Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health. “Access to injury data will also help OSHA better target compliance assistance and enforcement resources, and enable ‘big data’ researchers to apply their skills to making workplaces safer.”

A response to increase in injury/fatality reports

These changes come in the wake of reports of workplace injuries and fatalities across the nation.

In 2014, nearly 3 million nonfatal injuries in the workplace were reported, in addition to the 4,821 employees who lost their lives, according to the BLS. Already,  2016 is showing a similar trend.

In Virginia, the state’s Department of Labor recorded 29 workplace-related fatalities just in the first seven months of 2016. That compares to 31 deaths during the entire year of 2015, which led to Department of Labor and Industry Commissioner C. Ray Davenport calling it a “horrific trend.”

For more information about the new regulations, go to www.osha.gov.

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