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June 14, 2013
Research reveals discrepancy with Michigan injury stats

Without accurate injury statistics, how do you know whether your programs are making a difference? That question was asked by occupational medicine expert Dr. Kenneth Rosenman of Michigan State University.

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In research conducted with the Michigan Department of Community Health, Rosenman identified 616 work-related amputations in Michigan in 2008. That’s two-and-a-half times more than the number identified by the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) national tracking system.

Rosenman says Michigan uses a multisource system to count injuries rather than a sampling of employers, the method used by the BLS to track nonfatal injuries and illnesses. Said Rosenman, “The federal government could extrapolate from states like Michigan and others that have a comprehensive system and come up with a much better system for the country.”

While Michigan OSHA (MIOSHA) is experiencing expected levels of inspection, a report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that other state plans are facing various challenges chiefly related to staffing and budgets. And the GAO says federal OSHA is not doing all it should to monitor enforcement in the 22 state OSHA programs.

The GAO found that state plans are facing several challenges that affect their ability to adequately staff their programs. Problems include staffing vacant inspector positions, retaining qualified inspectors, and obtaining necessary training for their inspectors.

According to the GAO, budget shortfalls and HR policies may contribute to these staffing issues, which, in some cases, limit the states’ ability to meet inspection goals.

OSHA will hold a stakeholder meeting on June 25 in Washington, D.C., to discuss the effectiveness of state plans as compared to federal OSHA. The goal is to gather information and ideas on useful indicators, and how OSHA can use these to assess state plan effectiveness.

The agency has responded in a number of ways to problems faced by state programs, but the GAO said more should be done. One recommendation was to give federal OSHA more authority to step in and enforce standards when state programs fall short.

Other recommendations:

  • Facilitate access to training;
  • Establish time frames for resuming enforcement if states do not address changes in a timely way;
  • Document lessons from past experiences in taking over state-run programs; and
  • Standardize guidance for audit practices.

OSHA chief Dr. David Michaels said OSHA is making its national training courses more accessible and will continue to make improvements. He added that budget and legal obstacles limit the agency’s ability to assume responsibility for failing state plans. OSHA did take such a move in 2010 in Nevada.

In fiscal year 2012 MIOSHA conducted 5,393 safety and health inspections. Most cited standards include:

  • Control of hazardous energy sources,
  • Design safety for electrical systems,
  • Hazard communication,
  • PPE,
  • Guards for powered transmission, and
  • Powered industrial trucks.

The state also provided 3,487 consultation visits. In recent months, MIOSHA has been holding informal sessions where employers meet with MIOSHA representatives to get information and ask questions.

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