Thousands of Employers With High Rates Of Injuries, Illnesses Targeted by OSHA

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Several thousand businesses with higher than average absentee rates due to illness and injury are on notice they could be singled out for inspection by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

“You should be aware that OSHA may target up to 4,500 general industry workplaces identified in the survey for inspection in the next year,” David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health, said to 14,635 employers in an undated letter posted on the agency's Freedom of Information Act website.

All the employers had higher than average worker absentee rates, officially called “days away, restriction, and transfer” (DART) rates. For every 100 employees, at least 2.5 employees missed at least one day on the job because of work-related injury or illness, according to a 2009 survey of 80,000 employers. The national average is 1.8

OSHA has sent out similar letters annually for several years, including 14,826 in 2010. The trigger DART rate for sending a letter in 2010 was 4.5, and the national average was 2.0.

A wide range of employers received letters this year. The 14,635 businesses include about 500 nursing homes, 300 Lowe's Home Center stores, 150 U.S. Postal Service branches and centers, 130 Federal Express locations, and 100 lumber companies.

Lowe's spokeswoman Karen Cobb in a May 20 written statement to BNA said she could not “speculate on the reasons for the quantity of the letters about the DART rate.”

Cobb added, “We commit substantial resources to our safety programs, collaborate with regulatory agencies regarding safety standards and continually review our safety programs to ensure they meet or exceed industry standards.”

Michaels's letter also encouraged businesses to seek outside advice, such as from a private consultant, union, insurance carrier or state workers's compensation agency. Businesses with 250 or fewer employers may qualify for assistance from OSHA's free consultation program that operates independently of OSHA's enforcement program.

By Bruce Rolfsen

A copy of Michaels' letter is available at

As list of the employers sent letters is at