Agency chief justifies incident-reporting rule revision, Wire Mesh case in point

Sources: Occupational Safety and Health Administration; CP staff

Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels sees a final rule on employer reporting of severe injuries or fatalities significantly enhancing the agency’s ability to steer accident prevention.

“Data from these new reports will enable OSHA to better identify workplaces where workers are at the greatest risk and to target our compliance assistance and enforcement resources accordingly. This rule will help establish a new relationship between OSHA and employers whose employees have been seriously injured,” Dr. Michaels noted in prepared comments.

“[It applies] behavioral economics to worker safety. When an employer notifies us of a severe injury among its workers, we will ask what caused the injury and what the employer intends to do to address the hazard and prevent future injuries,” he continued. “That employer will then be on notice that OSHA knows about that severe injury, and will have made the commitment to address the hazard. We believe that as a result of this interaction, that employer will be more likely to take the steps necessary to better protect the lives and limbs of their employees.”

“Too often, we learn of a worker being killed or seriously injured, and when we inspect, learn that one or more workers have already suffered serious injuries at that establishment,” Dr. Michaels added, referencing a fatality and two serious injuries at Wire Mesh Sales, a Jacksonville, Fla.-based welded wire reinforcement and PC strand fabricator.

Investigating the August 2013 death of a worker who was struck upon entering a mesh machine to retrieve a metal bar, OSHA inspectors concluded that a light curtain would have automatically disabled the equipment prior to the danger zone breach. Inspectors also learned of two prior incidents on the same piece of machinery, resulting in an amputation and a crushed forearm. In February 2014, OSHA proposed nearly $700,000 in fines for Wire Mesh Sales, reflecting willful, serious and repeat violations tied to machine guarding and other hazards.