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Shining the safety spotlight, part 2: industry pushback

In the first part of this post, we introduced the proposal by federal safety regulators to make companies report more information online about workplace injuries.

In this part of the post, we will look at the way employers are pushing back against the proposal.

Industry groups are saying that information on workplace injuries could easily be misinterpreted when put out there on the Internet for all to see. There is no doubt, however, that the issue affects a lot of people. After all, in any given year about 3 million people get hurt or become ill on the job.

Understandably, safety advocates contend that more disclosure about illnesses and injuries is important to improved efforts to prevent so much harm from occurring.

After all, a basic foundation of American democracy is an informed citizenry. When citizens are better informed about issues, they are better able to take action to address them through their elected representatives.

At present, companies vary widely on how much safety information they report.

Officials from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) believe that more access by the public to corporate injury information will create incentives for employers to devote more efforts to improve safety. It could be a good selling point for a company to be recognized as a safety leader.

Corporate groups counter that the public might not understand what certain information really means. For example, injury and illness rates in various industries would need to be put in context.

That seems condescending. In addition, it isn't only the public that will benefit from improved access to workplace safety information. Researchers will also benefit from the rich data set made possible by the increased reporting and online availability. This could enable researchers inside and outside of government to help identify ways to improve workplace safety.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, "Businesses Critical of U.S. Proposal for Workplace Safety Database," Alexandra Berzon and Melanie Trottman, Nov. 7, 2013

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