Better Data on Severity and Causes of Worker Safety and Health Problems Should Be Obtained From Workplaces

HRD-76-118: Published: Aug 12, 1976. Publicly Released: Aug 12, 1976.

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According to the Department of Labor's latest estimate, 5,900 private industry workers died from work-related injuries and illnesses. The Occupational Safety and Health Act authorizes Labor to obtain from employers and other sources information needed to determine the most serious safety and health hazards.

Better data on the causes and severity of safety and health problems are needed for developing and modifying standards to administer the Act, insuring enforcement of and compliance with the Act, and employer-employee information and education activities. Basic questions which remain unsolved are: (1) the need for all of the existing standards and their adequacy for preventing injuries; (2) the relative priorities which should be given to developing standards on thousands of safety and health hazards not covered by standards; (3) whether the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and State compliance inspections are directed first to the workplaces most likely to have specific hazardous conditions that can cause death or serious disabling injuries and illnesses; (4) whether OSHA and State inspectors emphasize specific conditions that can cause death and seriously disabling injuries or illnesses; (5) whether penalties and correction deadlines for violations found during inspections consider adequately the seriousness of the hazards as required by the Act and Labor procedures; and (6) whether the levels and directions of information and education efforts are proportionate with the potential for reducing to a minimum serious safety and health problems. Labor's data on work-related injuries and illnesses as reported by employers would not be adequate for directing efforts to protect workers from toxic chemicals and other health hazards. Labor has more authority to obtain such data than it has used to date.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Labor should direct OSHA to: (1) give high priority to resolving the issues of how to obtain the data it needs from employers on the severity and causes of injury and illness and establishing a system for obtaining and using the data; (2) modify the accident investigation program to compile and analyze data on the specific causes of injuries and include, where necessary for getting additional causal data, investigations of nonfatal but serious accidents which are shown by other data to occur frequently; (3) reconsider the need for such other efforts as supplementary studies and limit such efforts to obtaining specific data that are needed but not obtainable under the system and the accident investigations programs; (4) evaluate the data on causes of death and serious injury and illness to determine what standards development, enforcement, information, and education efforts are needed to eliminate or reduce such causes; and (5) initiate a program, in consultation with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), for reviewing existing standards and related data, the NIOSH listing of toxic substances, and other appropriate data to identify the toxic substances and harmful physical agents which warrant reporting by employers. The program should require the promulgation of standards on the basis of information available.

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