Press Teleconference on Proposed New Rule to Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses


Moderator: Jesse Lawder
November 7, 2013
1 pm EST


Welcome and thank you for standing by. At this time all participants are in a listen-only mode. During today's question and answer session the command to ask a question will be star then 1 on your touchtone phone.

Today's conference is being recorded if you have any objections please disconnect at this time. And I would like to introduce your host for today's call Mr. (Jesse Lawder).


Hi, thanks everyone for getting on the call today. I'm here with Dr. David Michaels Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health. We're also joined by the 72nd Secretary of the Treasury and former CEO of Alcoa, Mr. Paul O'Neill. I'd like to first turn it over to Dr. Michaels.

Dr. David Michaels:

Thank you (Jesse) good afternoon. Today we learned from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that 3 million American workers in the private sector suffered a serious work related injury or illness in 2012.

In some industries more than 1 in 20 workers are injured every year. This should not be acceptable in the United States today. The law requires many employers to keep a record of workplace injuries and illnesses that's called the OSHA log.

The purpose of the log is to help employers and workers identify hazards, fix problems and prevent injuries and illnesses. Each year BLS asks a sample of employers around the country to send their OSHA logs to the BLS for the annual survey of occupational injuries and illnesses.

It's from this survey we know the injury rate in each industry, that's how we know the private sector employers reported about 3 million injuries among their workers last year.

But for the most part the information in the logs never leaves the workplace. We propose to change that so that these data can play a larger role in preventing work related injuries and illnesses.

It's OSHA's job to ensure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women but OSHA is a small agency. With our state partners we have about 2400 inspectors to cover almost 8 million workplaces.

It would take us close to 100 years to inspect every workplace once. The OSHA instructions alone are not enough to prevent the terrible toll of workplace injuries those 3 million serious injuries that occur annually.

Employees must find and fix the hazards in their own workplaces before workers get hurt whether or not OSHA makes the inspection. Today OSHA is issuing a proposal to improve workplace safety and health through improved tracking of workplace injuries analysis.

We believe the approach we propose is an effective, inexpensive and non-prescriptive way to encourage employers to reduce hazards and work to save workers lives and limbs.

First, let me say that this proposal does not add any requirements to keep records it only modifies an employer's obligation to transmit these records to OSHA.

The proposal requires large employers with 250 or more employees to electronically report to OSHA together on serious workplace injuries analyses that the employer already collects.

Smaller employers with 20 or more employees will be required to electronically report only the annual summary data that employers have already prepared.

OSHA will make the data publicly available online after cleaning it of personally identifiable information. How will this make workplaces safer? Public posting of workplace injury and illness information will nudge employers to better identify and eliminate hazards.

Employers want to be seen as the top performers in their industry just as some corporations strive to demonstrate their commitment to reducing pollution or using renewable energy we believe that responsible employers will want to be recognized as leaders in safety.

Currently employers cannot benchmark their performance against others in their industry. Once implemented this initiative will enable employers to compare their safety records to those at similar facilities.

In addition prospective employees will know which employers have better safety records helping those employers compete for the most desirable workers.

This initiative will not result in more OSHA enforcement but with these data OSHA will be able to better target our activities by identifying the employers who most need our free consultants, our educational materials and our health and safety inspections.

This also means we can expect fewer resources and make fewer inspections of employers with low injury rates. This initiative will also generate a rich body of information, which will be available for researchers.

I believe that through aggregating data across employers in the same industry researchers will be able to better understand causes of injuries now occurring and to identify emerging health hazards that would be difficult to detect looking at the data of a single employer.

The public will have 90 days to submit written comments on the proposed rule. In addition on January 9, 2014 OSHA will hold a public meeting on the rule.

More information on the public meeting will be available next week in the Federal Register and on our Web site and we encourage the public to participate in the rule making process.

The proposed rule was developed following a series of stakeholder meetings in 2010. The proposed rule is also supported by the work of OSHA's national advisory committee on safety and health NACOSH who in June 2011 issued a formal recommendation to OSHA.
They modernized the system for collection of injury and illness data to ensure that they're timely, complete, accurate and both accessible and useful to employers, employees, responsible government agencies and members of the public.

In summary a proposed requirement will enable employers, workers, researchers, the public and OSHA to work together to prevent injuries and illnesses, use taxpayer dollars more efficiently and improve businesses bottom line.

This will be accomplished through a program whose costs are minimal. Employers are already collecting this information the only change is that they will send the information to OSHA electronically.

Three million injuries is three million to many. We can and we must do better. So when developing this proposal we looked to the best practices of employers who are world leaders in workplace safety and one of those employers is Alcoa.

Under the leadership of Paul O'Neill who later was appointed by President George W. Bush as the 72nd Secretary of the Treasury, Alcoa dramatically lowered it's worker injury rate while simultaneously becoming a more profitable company.

Alcoa maintains its deeply held commitment for worker safety. If you go on the Alcoa Web site safety holds a prominent place and Alcoa's injury statistics updated in real time are posted for the world to see.

I'm very pleased that Secretary O'Neill has joined us on this call and he can speak to the importance of disclosing injury data and preventing work related injuries, so Secretary O'Neill.

Paul O'Neill:

All right Dr. Michaels thank you for inviting me to participate in this event. Let me say first I believe this is a great initiative and I hope it's a step but not the final step.

When I was the CEO of Alcoa more than 20 years ago we created a real time safety data system that linked 343 locations around the world with a requirement that within 24 hours if anyone having an injury including a first aid case it be posted on the Internet.

So that every organization, every one of our 343 locations could learn from anything gone wrong so we didn't have to learn the same lessons over and over again.

And as Dr. Michaels said if you look at the Alcoa Web site today please know I've been gone from there 13 years but they've not forgotten about the idea that's it's possible to have an injury free worksite, so half an hour ago the year to date to the minute lost workday rate at Alcoa was .083.

So I believe these electronic quarterly reports are a great step. I hope it won't be to long until we take the step suggesting to employers that they put their data on a real time basis like Alcoa does.

So that we can speed up the pace of learning and elimination of injuries particularly important in an area I spent a lot of time in these days in health medical care.

Most of you will not know the most dangerous industry in the United States from a point of view the injury of workers in that industry is health and medical care.

Where the most recent report says nearly 7 of every 100 people who work in health and medical care are hurt to the point that they have an OSHA reportable injury every year.

So now we're going to - I wrote a letter to the President of the United States in December urging in the State of the Union that he require every health and medical care institution in the country to hook up the Internet at 8 o'clock every morning.

And post not only injury to workers but the newly identified hospital required infections and patient falls and medication errors because I believe the availability of transparent information can hasten the day when we can eliminate injuries in the workplace and hopefully in health medical care we can stop getting 2 million people a year infections and 300 million medication errors and all the rest.

So by me again this is a great initiative and I hope it is just the first step in what will be other steps to move us toward real time, thank you.


Thank you Secretary O'Neill. We're ready to open up for questions so the Operator will give you instructions.


Yes sir, if anyone would like to ask a question at this time please press star 1. You will be prompted to un-mute your phone and record your name as your name is required to introduce your question.

Once again please press star 1 if you have a question, it will be just one moment for our first question.


Thank you.


Melanie Trottman your line is open with the Wall Street Journal.

Melanie Trottman:

Hi good afternoon. Two quick questions, one is can you say roughly how many more companies will be required to provide this information OSHA than are required to do so now?

And the second question is the bigger companies the ones with 250 or more workers they're not going to have to provide more detailed information to OSHA than they have, than they do have to right now under this role?

Dr. Michaels:

Yes let me explain we'll get to your first question first.

Melanie Trottman:


Dr. Michaels:

Our estimate that there are 30,000 larger companies that's 250 employees or more that would be in this and perhaps another 440,000 of the 20 or more that will be included.

That compares to right now where we correct information from 60,000 employers a year. And we have a for those of you who don't know that we currently collect aggregate information the same information that we're asking smaller employers to provide from 60,000 employers a year in high hazards SIT codes.

We've been doing that actually since 1990's, it gets posted to our Web site. We have right now, you know, 180,000 injury rates identified by employers for about 180,000 different employers on the Web site.

The larger employers though with 250 or more employees will send essentially case characteristic data. So it will be some information about every injury that is reported or that they record, we'll strip that of personally identifiable information.

This will be large employers those 38,000 will actually send a great deal more information and that will be sent on a quarterly basis. This is a new step for OSHA but it's not a new step for the Federal Government.

Right now all minings send this information, this case characteristic information to the mine safety and health administration and it's all put on the Web right now.

The same is true for railroads with the Federal railway - railroad administration.

Melanie Trottman:

And the 60K is that for - you said 60K employers a year now sends you information that's both big and small companies?

Dr. Michaels:

They collect about 80,000 and we get about 60,000 eventually go up on the Web. That's large and small companies but actually above 20, again above 20 employees.

We're not actually collecting from very small employers no one under 20...

Melanie Trottman:

No, I know by smaller I mean the 20.

Dr. Michaels:

...yes above 20 and, you know, BLS also collects a subset. A lot of the information that we'll be collecting the Bureau of Labor Statistics currently collects as well but that information is very much sequestered from our, you know, we keep - that's kept separately.


And our next question comes from Alexandra Berzon with the Wall Street Journal.

Alexandra Berzon:

Actually (unintelligible) so my question is the - are you concerned at all that companies - can you talk a little bit about sort of concerns (unintelligible) may have about companies keeping accurate injury data and how do you think this will affect that?

Is there any effort in this that would influence companies to keep more active injury and or could it actually deter that because it would now be public and so companies wouldn't want to have that information out there?

Dr. Michaels:

No we actually think that public disclosure will improve the quality of the data through a self-correcting mechanism. We believe that by making the reports public employees will be able to tell if their employer is under reporting and that's going to encourage more accurate reporting by employers who may not have done so in the past.

In addition though I think senior managers don't want to publicly report inaccurate data I think they recognize that. So I believe that as a result of this they're going to pay more attention to the accuracy of the data and therefore see the meaning of the data to the injury rates.

And presumably to the causes of injury as well so that self-correcting mechanism I think will actually contribute to safer workplaces. Plus, you know, we've had this data up for a long time and I think employers, many employers are used to sending this in.


Our next question comes from Daniel Glucksman with the International Safety Equipment your line is open.

Daniel Glucksman:

Hi Dr. Michaels. For those of us who have been following OSHA for a while a couple of questions, one, how will this differ from the SST the site specific targeting where employers in high hazard jobs with injury and illness rates above their peer group, you know, are put into a bucket for wall-to-wall inspections?

Does this, you know, widen the sort of the pool of companies that could have an SST? And the other is I know there are some like enforcement data on the Web site the OSHA Web site and I would say it's not as user friendly as it could be.

And I'm sure you're well aware of government Web sites these days and are you working to make sure this is sort of as user friendly of a Web site or a searchable database as possible?

Dr. Michaels:

So to the second part this is a proposal and we ask many questions and some of those questions involve how we collect the data and how we present the data.

And so we're eager for individuals and we'd like you to be involved in that to present your feelings on how and your suggestions on how we can make sure this is - this data is done - collected in a way that's useful and not burdensome and also it's presented in a way that's particularly effective.

This is not an enforcement initiative. We make decisions on enforcement based on the data we get. This will provide additional information for us and as I said earlier will help us target those places that need that can most use the OSHA resources.

And that includes enforcement but also compliance, assistance, consultation, education et cetera. You know, we do the same number of inspections year in, year out and we do quite a few fatality inspections and complaint inspections.

But those other inspections those are done by choice the program inspections. This will certainly help us target them most effectively.

Daniel Glucksman:

Okay great thanks.


Our next question comes from Sam Hananel with the Associated Press your line is open.

Sam Hananel:

Hi thanks for the doing the call. I wanted to ask when you say that the information would eventually be posted online how soon is eventually, how quickly will this information make it to where the public can see it?

Dr. Michaels:

Well that's a great question I can't answer that this is really in the proposal stage and, you know, we'll have to build a mechanism to do that. But right now the information we currently get really gets held for a long time before we put it up.

So it's not as useful and we recognize that that the more quickly we can post it publicly the more useful it will be for everybody involved. And so we're certainly committed to looking at the ways we can do that best.

Sam Hananel:

And do you have any time in mind, would you ideally like to have it up within weeks or months or what's your target?

Dr. Michaels:

Well here's the thing the case characteristic information that's particularly useful information we have to be very careful to make sure it doesn't include personally identifiable information and we've got to clean that.

So we've got to work out a system to clean it efficiently and effectively. And so until we can figure out exactly how to do that I don't want to make any predictions.

Sam Hananel:

Thank you.


Thank you, we have Michele Marill with the Hospital Employee Health Newsletter your line is open.

Michele Marill:

Thank you so much Dr. Michaels for taking the call. I had a few logistical questions. So first of all would employers be literally sending their OSHA 300 log or would they have to fill out some kind of a form like they might do now with BLS identifying which type of, you know, like the nature of the event and that sort of thing?

And will BLS still be surveying employers and collecting their own information?

Dr. Michaels:

You know, for large - the case characteristic data that comes from large employers will probably be sent in batch files. When we did our stakeholder names and we met with many large employers virtually all large employers they keep track of OSHA injuries as well as workers compensation cases and claims electronically.

And so really it's just a question of putting together the information in a file that already exists but putting the data in a certain order and transmitting it electronically.

So we we're confident this is a pretty straightforward activity and won't be particularly difficult. And we're working closely with BLS to make sure we're not duplicating anything that they've already developed.

Michele Marill:

Will they continue to collecting their own information?

Dr. Michaels:

Yes absolutely and we keep them very much separate. BLS does the statistical sample, they keep the information confidential so they can maintain the high quality of their work.

We work very closely with them but we keep that line that demarcation very clear.

Michele Marill:

And under this system do you perceive that somebody could then actually look up a specific company and find out what their injury rate is?

Dr. Michaels:

In fact they can do that right now we have, you know, several hundred thousand employers or establishments right on our Web site and on the ( Web site where you can look up the specific establishments of a specific employer and find out their injury rate.

This will collect more information and they can put out in a way that's much more useful.

Michele Marill:

Okay thank you.


Next thank you we have Mark McGraw with Human Resources Executive Magazine your line is open.

Mark McGraw:

Hi Dr. Michaels. Just you mentioned toward the beginning of the call just, you know, what you're proposing. It wouldn't add requirements it's really only a modification of how large employers, you know, must submit records to OSHA.

From a human resources standpoint I mean does this mean for HR leaders at companies of 250 or more employees, you know, how does the new regulation impact their responsibilities in terms of, you know, sharing workplace injury and illness records with OSHA?

Dr. Michaels:

Well I'm hoping that those HR executives are already seeing those reports and are aware of those logs as they go from the safety department in an individual facility to the HR director for the whole company.

And in fact they're showing that information with the CEO and that sort of - and the board of directors. That's something that Secretary O'Neill has been advocating for quite a long time.

What it means though is that there has to be responsible individuals in the organization who electronically transmit this information to OSHA. We're not specifying it has to be an HR director and that's going to be up to the company to decide who that person is.
So in some cases I imagine the HR director will get involved and other cases they won't.

Mark McGraw:

Okay thank you.


Next thank you, we have (Bruce Rollson) with Bloomberg your line is open.

Bruce Rolfson: 

Thank you, Dr. Michaels what will be I mean so far we've talked about workplaces with more than 20 employees. What will the workplaces with 11 to 19 employees be doing?

Will they still be expected to keep their records but submitting...

Dr. Michaels:

Yes nothing - this makes no changes in any requirements around record keeping itself, nothing changes.

Bruce Rolfson:

Okay and does this I know OSHA has two other - there's a rule making proposal out there right now that is switch over to the NAICS codes and then there's also an it's an information review request that would have changed the ODI to include employer from 11 to 19.

Does this rule that's being proposed today does this supplant those two proposals or are those two still out there to be considered?

Dr. Michaels:

Yes the real - they're sort of separate issues. The transition from SIC to NAICS codes that's still being worked on and that really doesn't change this at all. But the other proposal to go down below the 20 the 11's and 19 category will be withdrawn.

Bruce Rolfson:

Okay thank you.


Next thank you we have Sandy Smith with EHS today your line is open.

Sandy Smith:

Hi Dr. Michaels. I'm particularly interested in this concept of companies being able to benchmark this information and use the low injury, hopefully using their low injury and illness rate to a competitive advantage.

And one of the things I was interested in is in 2011 the global 100 most sustainable corporations were reported and the center for health sustainability did a report on those companies and found that one of the company's 49 employees had died in a year.

Another company over a three-year period there were 70 fatalities the idea being how can we consider a company sustainable and sort of celebrate them for that when 70 employees are dying in a three-year period.

Do you hope that, you know, sustainability is gaining a lot of traction, a lot of conversation are you hoping that this will help occupational safety and health have more of a rule in that discussion of overall sustainability of companies?

Dr. Michaels:

Yes in addition the basic idea of reporting the number of global reporting initiatives that this really can be seen as part of. I think it's being widely recognized that publicly disclosing information about practices is a very good way for corporations to become better public citizens and display the great work that they're doing and we see this as part of that initiative.


Folks we've got time for one more question.


And just one moment for our final question.


If there's nothing further then we can call it a day.

Dr. Michaels:

Let me thank Secretary O'Neill he really has been a very important leader in across the board in all industries and I'm very proud to be working with him in the healthcare sector as well to bring better safety and health to the healthcare systems around the country.


Thank you everyone.


This does conclude today's conference you may disconnect at this time, thank you.