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2010 Workplace Fatality Statistics Expected to Exceed Those for 2009

Tired labor workerIn a previous post, we covered Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn’s proposal to cut the government’s budget for OSHA. Senator Coburn cited OSHA’s increases in budget and declines in inspections and citations, as well as potential inefficiencies and lack of effectiveness, as the primary factors in his proposal to cut at least $72.6 million from the government-funded regulatory body.

The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) recently published statistics that offer some insight to the problems regarding OSHA’s effectiveness. In their report, the BLS stated that 4,547 people died from work-related injuries and illnesses in 2010, compared to 4,551 in 2009. The final tally is still to be completed, but experts expect the 2010 total to continue climbing.

According to safetynewsalert.com, an estimated 14,000 workers died in the United States each year before the founding of OSHA in 1971. This tells us that there’s no doubt there has been improvement since the founding of the program. The question being debated is: how much progress is being, and can be, made now and in the future in regards to OSHA’s procedures?

Over the past decade, the great strides in workplace fatality statistics have been made in the construction industry and in fatalities from falling. Fatalities in construction have declined almost 40% since 2003, and fatal falls have dropped 25% since 2007. Falls in the construction industry have also declined 42% since 2007.

These statistics make it safe to say that OSHA clearly has a significant impact on certain areas of workplace safety and health, but inevitably other areas still carry subpar statistics.

For example, there were 172 fatalities in the private mining industry in 2010 – a 74% increase from 99 in 2009. Fatalities resulting from fires in the workplace increased from 53 in 2009 to 109 in 2010, over a 100% increase.

The statistics presented in the BLS’s report and in this article give support to both sides of the argument surrounding OSHA’s future. Granted, with human nature comes the inevitability of error, and no regulatory body can eliminate the “human factor.” However, with regulatory authority comes the credit, be it positive or negative, for results and statistics.

Do you think OSHA has a positive enough effect on occupational health and safety to continue receiving the funding it has? Or should our government reevaluate the efficiency of OSHA’s practices and procedures?

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