The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has the responsibility for helping to maintain workplace safety in the United States. OSHA writes the regulations that control many aspects of worker safety and they enforce those regulations by prosecuting employers that violate the safety standards and place workers at risk.
In order to determine the types of activities they need to regulate, OSHA tracks workplace injuries, accidents and disease. Most employers larger than a certain size already have to report to OSHA employee injury and illness information. New regulations have been proposed that would require the information be submitted electronically.
This electronic submission of injury and illness information will help provide OSHA and Congress with better and timelier data on workplace injuries, which in turn should allow them to more quickly identify trends in occupational injuries and disease, and better apply their resources to protect workers.
The current system of data acquisition is slow, with aggregated data arriving at OSHA already one or two years old. This means the agency is making decisions based on data that may have changed by the time a regulation is proposed.
Knowledge of where workers are being injured and establishment-specific injury and illness data will enable OSHA to devote more resources to those workplaces where employees are at the greatest risk for injury or illness and target those industries with closer scrutiny.
In addition to creating more valuable regulations that protect workers, OSHA also plans to make this data publically available. This would allow workers to better learn the specific risk they face within their industry and the types of injuries that actually occur. It could also allow workers the ability to make informed choices between type of work and employers.
Source: Federal Register, “Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses,” Occupational Safety and Health Administration, November 8, 2013