Government ‘shames’ businesses to make workplace injury stats available online

A new OSHA regulation will require statistics of workplace injury and illness to be published online.
A new OSHA regulation will require statistics of workplace injury and illness to be published online. AP

Employees will soon be able to look up a businesses’ workplace safety record on a public government website.

A new measure from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration at the Labor Department will require industries that see a lot of injuries, like manufacturing, construction, farming and trucking, to electronically report statistics of injuries and illnesses on the job.

It is intended to pressure such businesses to prioritize safety on the job, and shame them if they don’t have a good record.

"Just as public disclosure of their kitchens’ sanitary conditions encourages restaurant owners to improve food safety, OSHA expects that public disclosure of work injury data will encourage employers to increase their efforts to prevent work-related injuries and illnesses,” said David Michels, the assistant labor secretary who heads OSHA. “No employer wants to be seen publicly as operating a dangerous workplace.”

The new rule will go into effect in 2017, and labor advocates say the increased transparency will protect workers who face regular risks in their jobs.

Michels said the new policy won’t add any cost to businesses, because they are already required to report the same information to OSHA. But currently injury statistics are only available at the business itself, making it impossible to research a company’s record.

The Teamster’s Union applauded the move, and said in a statement it “will go a long way in correcting a widespread problem that saw many large employers routinely withholding these reports from their own workers, in violation of OSHA's current mandate. This will especially help the many workers in non-union companies to get this important information without fear of retaliation by their own supervisors.”

The manufacturing industry, however, views the policy as an “unnecessary public shaming” that violates privacy.

"Manufacturers are supportive of regulations aimed at increasing transparency, and we pride ourselves on creating safe workplaces for the men and women who make things in America,” president of the National Association of Manufacturers Rosario Palmieri said. "However, this regulation will lead to the unfair and unnecessary public shaming of these businesses. This is a misguided attempt at transparency that sacrifices employee and employer privacy.”