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The Numbers in Safety

OSHA reports a decline in work-related injuries.

25Jun

Even as Congress was preparing to hold hearings on the
agency's effectiveness, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration sent
out its annual warning letters to companies with higher-than-average injury
and illness rates. More than 14,000 companies received the letters, each having
reported 5.1 or more incidences per 100 employees,
more than double the national average.


The good news is that injury rates have
been falling, at least among the most accidentprone
companies. Last year's numbers compare
quite favorably with those from 2002 (see chart at the end of this article),
when major offenders had rates of 7 or more
compared with the national average of 2.8.


OSHA has come under fire from labor
leaders and others for what they perceive as a
cozy relationship with the industries with the
highest rates. One criticism has been the agency's
advocacy of voluntary participation in safety programs,
versus the creation of new rules that would mandate tougher standards.


Anthony Forest Products Co. estimates that it saved more than $1 million
in health and insurance costs between 2000 and 2006 by taking advice
from OSHA. The company pinpointed potential hazards and instituted stringent
safety requirements in all of its
plants. It now has an injury and illness
rate of zero (meaning no workrelated
illnesses or injuries forced a
worker to miss a full day of work in a
one-year period).


The letters carry no fines, but
serve as an invitation to work with
OSHA to reduce incidents. Later this
year, OSHA will announce a list of
companies targeted for on-site
inspections.


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