The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, April 02, 2010

OSHA warns 15,000 firms about Job health, safety problems

By The Building Tradesman

WASHINGTON (PAI)–The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has warned 15,000 firms nationwide that their job safety and health records are bad enough to warrant closer federal scrutiny — and it’s offering compliance help.

But the agency is also warning corporate malefactors that it will not tolerate their injury and illness rates, which are twice the national averages for their various industries.  And agency administrator Dr. David Michaels urges those firms with unions in their workplaces to discuss safety and health issues with the unions.

“The employers are those whose establishments are covered by federal OSHA and reported the highest ‘Days Away from work, Restricted work or job Transfer injury and illness’ (DART) rate to OSHA in a survey of 2008 injury and illness data.  For every 100 full-time workers, the 15,000 employers had 4.5 or more injuries or illnesses which resulted in days away from work, restricted work or job transfer.  The national average is 2.0,” an OSHA statement said.

Michaels told the firms on March 9 that he’s concerned about their high DART rates and that OSHA offers “ways you can obtain assistance in addressing hazards in your workplace.”  While “your elevated DART rate does not necessarily indicate a lack of interest in safety and health…a high rate is costly to your company in both personal and financial terms.

“In addition, you should be aware that OSHA may target up to 4,500 general industry workplaces identified in the survey for inspection in the next year,” he warned.

“You may wish to consider hiring an outside safety and health consultant, talking with your insurance carrier, or contacting your state’s workers’ compensation agency for advice.  Your workers can help identify hazards and find solutions.  In addition, if you have a union at your site, please discuss with them how to reduce hazards,” he wrote.

“Receipt of this letter means workers in that particular establishment are being injured at a higher rate than in most other businesses of its kind in the country,” Michaels said in a statement.  “Employers whose businesses have injury and illness rates this high need to take immediate steps to protect their workers.”

Job safety and health is one area where the AFL-CIO has no problem with the Obama administration.  Reporting to the fed’s Executive Council the week before, Safety and Health Director Peg Seminario said Obama’s OSHA is moving swiftly and effectively on several key job hazards where enforcement languished.  But she added the Occupational Safety and Health Act must be updated and strengthened.