OSHA is trying to stretch its enforcement budget by targeting industry inspections and investigations. One change is a focus on fewer inspections (OSHA does about 40,000 a year now) and more in-depth inspections. At the same time, OSHA changed its Severe Injury Reporting Program to require companies to report all hospitalizations, amputations and loss of eye injuries. All told, OSHA is adopting a data-driven approach to its work.
Need proof? Read this report from the agency on a new focus on Nebraska’s meat processing industry. OSHA says “7.5 percent of meat processing workers experienced recordable injuries or illness in 2014.” That is a pretty shocking statistic. OSHA plans to address it with a combination of stepped up enforcement and education.
Companies need to realize that safety enforcement is becoming more and more of a numbers game. Industries with a lot of incidents will be under a magnifying glass and the agency is getting better and better at producing the numbers to back its approach. One of its chief tools is the change in Severe Injury Reporting. Each OSHA region took the reported injuries for its area and drilled into the statistics. It gave them a window into the day to day incidents that used to only show up when companies did their annual reporting. First, the agency was surprised at the volume of amputations that occur in the workplace – 2,644 amputations last year, more than seven a day. Here’s the breakdown that OSHA’s head gave at a recent conference: 57% of the amputations were at manufacturers and 10% of amputations were at construction sites. According to at least one OSHA official, the statistics raised awareness of an amputation problem at grocery stores.
OSHA will continue to refine its process and to open the door to increase scrutiny of smaller employers with larger-than-average incidents. In recent Congressional testimony agency officials asked for the authority to target inspections of small companies with PSM-covered processes and the potential for catastrophic incidents. Current legislation limits OSHA’s ability to inspect businesses with 10 or fewer employees in industries that have lower-than-average injury and illness rates.
Data-mining has clearly come to OSHA and it is changing the way it oversees safety in America.