Last month, OSHA’s administrator for Region VII issued a press release announcing the agency’s intention to counter the increase in work-related fatalities in Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska. During the current fiscal year (Oct17-Sep18), OSHA has investigated 34 fatalities in these states. Sadly, that number has continued to rise in the weeks since the press release was issued. What can we learn from this announcement?
Unfortunately, the data surrounding 34 investigations is incomplete. OSHA has not yet published fatality reports for 20 of the investigations it has conducted this year. OSHA has six months to complete its investigations after an accident or incident, which may explain in part why there is no information available for many of those investigations.
Based on the accident reports that OSHA has published, we have the following information:
|Fiscal Year 2018||Fatality Reports||Hazard Description|
If we examine the types of hazards that led to fatality reports last year, we see:
|Fiscal Year 2017||Fatality Reports||Hazard Description|
What do we learn about where should you focus?
Even if we ignore the fatality reports that have yet to be published, Region VII is unfortunately on pace to match or exceed the total number of fatality reports that were published last fiscal year (Oct16-Sep17).
One important caveat to that observation is that the comparison does not take into account the total number of employees working and the total hours worked in Region VII during the last two years. If total employment and hours worked have increased, it is possible that the rate or percentage of fatal accidents may be lower or constant as compared to FY2017. The data necessary to complete that calculation is not readily available.
Nevertheless, the fatality reports available for FY2017 and FY2018 do offer some insight into the hazards that are likely to contribute to workplace fatalities. They are:
- Falls from height;
- Inadequate / removed guards on machinery; and
- Human contact with powered industrial trucks / related equipment.
Employers in Region VII should give these hazards additional attention, if for no other reason than the simple fact that these hazards are commonly associated with workplace fatalities. From a compliance and enforcement standpoint, whether the fatality data actually shows an increase or not from last year to this year, it is important for employers to understand that OSHA personnel believe an increase has happened and therefore will be taking steps to reverse that trend. OSHA will be keeping an eye on these issues, so you should, too!