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Nudging toward safety

It is the prevailing belief at the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration that workplace safety is an employer's responsibility. OSHA also believes that when a workplace has a high injury rate, it is "a sign of poor management."

In order to "nudge" employers toward creating safer working environments, OSHA today issued a rule that modernizes the collection of data about workplace injuries and illnesses.

The federal agency is applying behavioral economics to the problem of workplace injuries, by making employers with 250 and more workers to keep digital, accessible records of injuries and illnesses. Additionally, some employers in high-hazard industries will also have to send the agency illness and injury data.

The collected data will then be posted on OSHA's website, giving employees, investors, customers and others insight into working conditions and workplace injury and illness rates. The transparency will "nudge" employers into taking steps to improve safety so that they are appealing to not only investors, but also to the best available employees.

OSHA notes that disclosure of sanitary conditions at restaurants helps spur efforts in the food industry to maintain conditions acceptable to customers, the new public disclosure of workplace safety data will encourage businesses to do more to help prevent accidents and illnesses.

The new rule also includes provisions protecting worker rights to report injuries without employer retaliation.

The rule and resulting data will also enable safety experts and employers to better understand the causes of accidents, injuries and illnesses, and to take steps to promote healthful workplaces.

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