OSHA Record-keeping: Is an Overhaul in Order?

Businessman holding two blocks with words workers compensation

Data gathered by OSHA is essential for establishing effective safety protocols and regulatory requirements to protect workers. OSHA’s current processes and requirements for record-keeping create gaps through which many workers fall victim to injury. To close these gaps, many are calling for changes to the agency’s recording and record-keeping requirements.

Current Flaws That Need Addressed

There are flaws in the methods used by OSHA to record workplace injuries. These make it difficult to identify the total case incident rates, number of workdays lost, and fatalities. Current OSHA record-keeping methods and requirements don’t show whether organizations are improving their safety procedures, and don’t track the precise causes of improvements or declines in safety. This makes it harder for businesses to address what’s wrong, and what needs changing. Addressing the following could improve the validity of the statistics gathered by OSHA and improve the agency’s ability to track and correct safety deficiencies in the workplace.

Suggestions for Improvement

Incident rates and rates of lost workdays mean little to the general public. They are statistics and not raw numbers. It’s easier for people to digest the total number of workers injured by a specific event and in a specific injury than it is to absorb an abstract statistic. Using raw numbers would make the risks and realities of specific hazards more understandable and actionable.

Some suggest companies provide quarterly and year-end safety evaluations. These reports would dig deeper into the steps the company has taken to improve its health and safety programs. They would also include known risk factors, the total number of workers injured by identified hazards, and the total impact in terms of injuries and fatalities suffered.

It may also be useful to include the financial impact of these injuries and fatalities on the company’s bottom line. Doing so would highlight the cost of inaction and the penalties paid by the organization for failing to address safety hazards. The theory is that by doing this company executives would see how much failing to address the issue will cost them; which would be significantly higher than correcting the cause of the injuries.

Finally, it may also be advantageous to solicit more employee feedback and recommendations for safety improvements. Workers on the job have a far better idea of how to improve workplace safety than executives or managers operating far from the job site.