Evaluation of OSHA Fatality Investigations
- Gavin F. Burdge | Miaozong Wu (University of Central Missouri) | Kile Veal (University of Central Missouri)
- Document ID
- American Society of Safety Engineers
- Professional Safety
- Publication Date
- September 2019
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 39 - 43
- 2019. American Society of Safety Professionals
- 1 in the last 30 days
- 29 since 2007
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- A comparison of OSHA and BLS data about workplace fatalities that occurred from 2014 to 2017 shows that only one-fourth of BLS-reported workplace fatalities have been investigated by OSHA, although OSHA requires employers to report worker fatalities and states that “OSHA investigates all work-related fatalities in all covered workplaces.”
- The ratio of OSHA fatality investigation cases between states with the federal plan and states with an OSHA-approved state plan is similar to that of BLS-reported workplace fatalities. However, the percentage of OSHA-investigated/BLS-reported workplace fatalities varies greatly between different states.
- Also, investigations by federal OSHA had higher penalties than that of state OSHA.
U.S. workplace fatalities continue each year at an alarming rate. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS, 2018a) data, 5,147 occupational fatalities occurred in 2017. OSHA requires that employers provide a workplace free from recognized hazards that can cause death or serious injury. Unfortunately, not all workplace hazards that may contribute to fatal injuries can be recognized by employers. To identify fatality causes and to prevent future similar incidents, OSHA requires employers to report any worker fatality within 8 hours; “OSHA investigates all work-related fatalities in all covered workplaces” (OSHA, 2019a).
To better understand the profile of OSHA fatality investigations and to identify any gaps preventing the reduction of fatality rates, all work-related fatality investigation cases available on the agency’s fatality inspection data website were analyzed for the calendar year 2017 (OSHA, 2019a). Especially, this study strived to assess the degree that OSHA exerts its efforts in workplace fatality investigations, as a whole and between different states. The authors have identified several interesting facts not previously widely or thoroughly discussed in the occupational safety literature.
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