In the past few decades, the world has seen an explosion in the quantity and accessibility of business-generated workplace data. As a result, employers have increasingly prioritized data analytics (the use of statistical and computational techniques to analyze large sets of data and derive meaningful insights) to fuel decision-making and optimize many areas of their organization.
One such area where employers may use data analytics is in the context of assessing potential liability for workplace safety issues. Recently, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued two new memorandums on increased penalties for OSHA violations. In light of those increased penalties, employers are increasingly looking for data-driven ways to reduce their OSHA risks and avoid fines and penalties that can exceed hundreds of thousands of dollars.
But, when it comes to workplace accidents and injuries, employers are often unaware of the benefits of data analytics and the readily available public data set that can help employers assess their risks, reduce or eliminate workplace injuries, and avoid significant penalties.
One of OSHA’s key functions is to collect, aggregate, and analyze workplace data on work-related injuries and illnesses Many do not realize that OSHA makes all of the collected data publicly available here. Employers may be familiar with the OSHA Injury Tracking Application (ITA) because they use it to submit their own data on injury or illness that occurred in their workplace.
But, the ITA is not only a tool for submitting information. It can also be used to view data submitted by peer organizations across an industry, making the ITA a valuable resource for data analytics. OSHA is already leveraging data analytics and the ITA data to identify trends and patterns in work-related injuries, develop new safety standards, and identify targets for enforcement efforts. Employers should look to do the same.
Indeed, proactive employers can beat OSHA to the punch by crunching that same publicly-available data for themselves and mitigating issues before they turn into OSHA recordable events, investigations, and citations. Using these materials, employers can compare injury and accident data for similar jobs or tasks across their industry to target preemptive safety interventions for particular job duties or machines prone to causing injuries. For example, in the past, we have written about OSHA’s emphasis on inspecting heat-related hazards, and as summer approaches, you can bet OSHA inspections will increase in industries where heat-related OSHA recordable injuries are more prevalent. Employers who get out ahead of these kinds of issues by utilizing the available ITA data can mitigate risk and potentially decrease their OSHA recordable injuries, inspections, and citations.
Employers can also use the ITA data in other less obvious ways, including assessing the data for a potential acquisition target during M&A due diligence efforts, and comparing the ITA data to peers in the industry. Companies can also leverage the ITA data in hiring, assessing whether a particular safety manager applicant comes from an organization with a strong safety record and may be able to identify and implement best practices. Employers should of course note that the ability to access this data runs both ways. Due to the public nature of the data, applicants and candidates for employment may be able to use the data to determine how your organization compares to the industry average.
Ultimately, while most employers know they must comply with OSHA reporting and recordkeeping requirements, and regularly use the OSHA ITA to do so, far fewer employers are proactively analyzing the publicly-available data to its full potential to boost data analytics and data-driven decision-making. As more companies look to optimize their organization in a softening economic market, proactive steps to avoid OSHA recordable injuries, inspections, and citations can affect the bottom line for the health and safety unit of any organization.