States Get Safety Report Cards: Winners and Losers

It’s report card time and states are lining up to get their grades from the National Safety Council.The State of Safety: A State-by-State Report graded states in three categories: Road Safety, Home Safety and Workplace Safety.  No state received an overall “A” grade, but several states received “Bs,” including the state in which I live (Maryland), the state in which I was born (Illinois), the state in which I grew up (California) and the state where my sister lives (Oregon.)  Just sayin’.

NSC President and CEO Deborah Hersman, noting that preventable deaths are at an all-time high, said “Safety is no accident. We lose more than 140,000 people because of events we know how to prevent. This report provides states with a blueprint for saving lives, and we hope lawmakers, civic leaders, public health professionals and safety advocates use it to make their communities measurably safer.”

The study found that, nationally, more than 146,000 people died last year from preventable accidents, a 7 percent increase over 2014.

We here at Confined Space world headquarters are, of course, most interested in the workplace safety area where only two states, Illinois and Washington, received “As.” B’s went to Colorado, Minnesota, Maryland, DC, Oregon, Alaska, Maine, New Hampshire and Connecticut.

The worst states for workplace safety, according to the NSC, are Mississippi, Arkansas, Missouri, South Dakota, Idaho, Wyoming and Kansas.

States were graded on three categories for workplace safety: Prevention, Preparedness and Enforcement (50%); Workers Compensation (25%) and Worker Health and Wellbeing (25%)

Prevention, Preparedness and Enforcement took into account such items as whether a state had requirement for health and safety programs and health and safety committees, as well as public employee OSHA coverage, workplace violence laws and “existence of multi-line telephone system enhanced 911 program for employers.”  The report notes that OSHA estimates that establishing safety and health programs can reduce injuries by 15 to 35% for employers that do not currently have a program.

I didn’t know what an enhanced 911 program was. Turns out it “provides dispatchers with precise caller location within a building or campus when a landline is used and ensures swift first response in case of an emergency.”  OK, I’ll buy it.

The Workers’ Compensation category looked at key measures like maximum benefits and length of coverage, and Worker Health and Well Being looked at states’ ability to control key workplace environmental risk factors by implementing drug-free and anti-smoking laws, as well as workplace wellness laws.

OK, well that was fun. My main quibbles would be that I don’t think any state should receive a passing grade (certainly not above a “C” if they don’t provide OSHA coverage for public employees. I would definitely knock Colorado, New Hampshire and Washington DC out of the “Bs.” And I have issues with the Drug Free Workplace laws — depending on what they say, how they’re administered and what safeguards they have to ensure that they aren’t used to retaliate against workers for reporting injuries.

Oklahoma came in 41 out of 51 in the workplace safety and health category and their Labor Commissioner, Melissa McLawhorn Houston, is pissed!  Houston objected to the state’s “F” grade on workplace safety and wrote a letter to the NSC it to revise Oklahoma’s grade. “Oklahoma’s public sector incidence rate, 3.8 per 100 workers, is lower than the national average at 5. The Oklahoma Department of Labor also provides free, confidential safety consultations to private and public employers.”

OK, so this does not impress me. With no OSHA law, it’s hard to trust any public sector injury and illness rates. And every state “provides provides free, confidential safety consultations,” which are, by the way, 90% funded by federal OSHA.

I’m not sure if Houston offered to stay after school or do extra credit, but my general feeling is that if she has nothing better to do than conduct media interviews and write letters complaining about her NSC grades, the state has bigger problems.

So for you delinquents out there,  get back to work. Lives are at risk.  Buckle down. There’s always next year.

We’ll be watching.

Uncategorized workplace safety and health programs Workplace Violence

5 Comments

  1. Jordan, state by state BLS work injury data has to my knowledge never been examined as to the validity of the variances among the states. There are ways to do this, for instance, to show rates for employers that are very similar in size and structure, such as nursing homes. Without this kind of analysis I do not put much credibility on rankings among states, since there may well be some reporting pattern biases (high and/or low) that drive the variances. Do you know anyone who has done this, or is interested in doing this?

  2. They must grade on a curve. I live in Washington State , the recipient of an “A”. I don’t think inspecting workplaces once every 50 years rates an “A”. I don’t think a workplace violence standard that only covers late-night retail rates an “A”. I don’t think the crappy safety committees we have rate an “A”.

  3. The grading has advantages for businesses to grow their profits. With a good rating, more and more businesses and people will do business with them. I think good safety reputation will work in any business.

  4. I have worked in statistics at the Oklahoma Department of Labor for 28 years. We collect data for injuries, illnesses and work-related fatalities from EVERY public sector entity in the state. We also investigate every work-related fatality in the public sector through our PEOSH (Public Employee Occupational Safety & Health) division here is the link to our statute www.ok.gov/odol/documents/380%2040%20ODOL%20PEOSH%20Regulatory%20Text.pdf I have attached a link to our site at the end of these comments. Since I became employed here in 1990, the incident rate for public employers has dropped from 8.2 per 100 in 1990 to 3.8 per 100 in 2016. We have recordkeeping seminars to help employers educate employers in completing their OK 300 forms which are mirrored after OSHA’s forms and we educate public employers on safety. We also have a Workers Memorial Day each year where we partner with OSHA to honor those who died on the job in public and private sector. I have also attached a link to that memorial site. I use your site as a resource and appreciate all the work you do, I just wanted to give my 2 cents. www.ok.gov/odol/

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