OSHA publishes counts of violations by company, as well as incidence rates by geography and industry. Now, they’re publishing the safety & health incident rate of many individual companies. Through a simple search engine, interested parties can type in a company’s name and access high level accident and injury data of many US-based business.
This data available contains the company name, address, industry, associated Total Case Rate (TCR), Days Away, Restricted, and Transfer (DART) case rate, and the Days Away From Work (DAFWII). Although OSHA includes a disclaimer saying that only a small portion of data is available and that “data are not representative of all businesses and general conclusions pertaining to all US business should not be drawn,” this is unlikely to affect the natural tendency to pass judgment on a company based on the numbers that are published.
The transparency this database brings has enormous potential to help or harm businesses in the construction industry. OSHA [which is under staffed and under significant fiscal restraints] is hoping to empower the concerned public to help them with their work of holding companies accountable for workplace safety.
Of course, this tool only works if people actually utilize it. Since the search functionality came out in February 2010, utilization so far has been low, however, we’re starting to hear from many of our customers that use of it is beginning to pick up.
So why and when will this tool come into play? We envision a couple of scenarios where this can have an impact:
Scenario 1: Prospects evaluating companies to do business with
When a potential customer has narrowed down the field and is comparing two similar companies to do business with, who are they going to favor? The company who has demonstrated a record of safety, or the one who has an OSHA incident rate worse than industry average?
The old saying “you are the company you keep” applies in B2B transactions, and especially in the construction industry. A poor safety record or an incident on the job can reflect very negatively on a customer’s organization.
Scenario 2: Companies looking to get a competitive edge
If prospects don’t think to look up this data on their own like in the first scenario, construction companies with a strong record can “kindly” bring this information to their attention. A great safety record can be a major differentiator – and of course, the search tool can be put to use to air a competitor’s dirty laundry as well.
Scenario 3: Job seekers evaluating potential employers
Say you’re looking for a job and two great companies offer you a position – are you going to go with the one that is committed to its employees’ health and safety? Or with the one with a sky high OSHA incident rate? Employees value companies who prioritize their health and well being, and a safety record can be a pretty good indicator of this.
Scenario 4: Evaluating subcontractors with the OSHA incident rate
When looking for partners to do business with, this can be a great tool for construction companies to gauge any risk that may come along with a particular subcontractor. A bad safety record is a major red flag of potential problems down the line.
Scenario 5: A research tool for the press when digging for "dirt"
Following a fatality or serious injury, the press has historically looked at past inspection information which, for the most part, was irrelevant. Now, reporters have access to real data and have the ability to draw more meaningful conclusions. They can look at the data and state "ABC Company has an OSHA incident rate 80% higher than the average rate in their industry".
We anticipate that the number of companies in this database (currently 80,000) will be expanded dramatically; the data will become more current and the level of detail will grow; and compliance efforts will focus more on accuracy of data. If affected parties start really making use of this tool, OSHA won’t need thousands of inspectors looking over the shoulder of every foreman – the accountability the market brings will drive a shift toward safety. Companies doing well will be rewarded, but companies who are lagging will wind up losing contracts and in-demand employees. This tool makes developing a culture of safety even more of an imperative for the companies in the construction industry today.