Labor Secretary Solis Begrudges the Progress Toward Safety!

The Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics released data this week that show that workplace injuries and illnesses continued to drop last year. Last year saw some 400,000 fewer workplace injuries than the year before. We know many folks may say that this decrease may be the result of continued low employment that’s a result of our current economic situation (and failed federal policies that don’t support job growth!) But, the reality is the overall rate of injuries has also dropped from 3.9 cases per 100 full time workers to 3.6. This number shows that the ratio of individuals getting hurt at work is declining.

Now, there are many reasons for this improvement, but the fact is, these numbers have been steadily improving for quite some time now, and the trend is largely due to employers continuing to find new ways to make workplaces safer.

One would think that the Secretary of Labor would acknowledge this greater commitment to safety demonstrated by both private sector employers AND their employees. Unfortunately, in her statement accompanying the release, Secretary Solis leaves the impression she thinks that employers are juking the stats.

Complete and accurate workplace injury records can serve as the basis for employer programs to investigate injuries and prevent future occurrences. Most employers understand this and do their best to prevent worker injuries, but some do not. … We are concerned about the widespread existence of programs that discourage workers from reporting injuries, and we will continue to issue citations and penalties to employers that intentionally under-report workplace injuries.”

The NAM strongly supports the use of sound science and data in the development of regulations and standards (in fact it’s in our official policy positions), and the Department certainty should have the most reliable data possible to help agency leaders develop better policies.

We are also well aware that the agency has engaged in an expensive and time-consuming effort using OSHA resources to ferret out employers who have not kept their OSHA logs properly. While we look to the results of these programs, it just seems irresponsible to suggest that workplace safety improvements are not the product of safe work practices but the result of rigged data.

Ultimately, Solis and the Labor Department have gone out of their way to use a news release noting improvements in safety to suggest employers aren’t committed to safety. It’s ideology trumping reality.

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