Because many companies go to great lengths to cultivate a positive public image, the effective use of “shaming”—bringing attention to business’ acts of wrongdoing—can push companies to improve their practices and fulfill their legal duty to provide a safe and healthy workplace.
Public pressure through shaming is especially important because the weak enforcement tools available to occupational health and safety agencies have insufficient deterrent effect on their own. Educating the public and policymakers about the worker safety records of particular companies (or even entire industries) can also help bring needed attention to more general worker health and safety problems, thus spurring needed reforms.
Too often, however, available data are difficult to find, of questionable accuracy, or presented in ways that make them difficult to use. As a result, advocates, the media, and policymakers underutilize the data for informing and influencing policy debates to strengthen worker protections.
What’s the Solution?
Where appropriate, advocates may want to consider using government data as part of their shaming campaigns. For example, advocates may use data to help illustrate the extent of inexcusable workplace hazards and provide concrete instances of how particular hazards have harmed workers. Data can also add persuasive force to advocates’ campaigns for tough enforcement actions against a scofflaw employer or for strong worker protection laws or standards. Although advocates may face challenges in explaining the limitations of available data, such as understated injury and illness rates, advocates may refer to the data limitations as part of their efforts to push government agencies to expand their data collection and disclosure initiatives.
A number of reliable data sources are available, some maintained by government agencies and some by non-governmental organizations.
Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)
Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI): The annual BLS CFOI compiles a range of data on all fatal work-related injuries, including demographic data in aggregate form on the victims, the industries involved, and the nature of the injuries.
DOL Enforcement Data: This web dashboard catalogs enforcement data collected by the DOL’s Wage & Hour Division (WHD), Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), OSHA, MSHA, and the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA).
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
Severe Work-Related Injury Reports: This site allow users to download data on severe injuries, including incident descriptions and establishment information, based on employer reports in states under federal OSHA jurisdiction.
Fed-OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP): In the left column of this webpage are links to spreadsheets with the names of companies that federal OSHA has designated as “severe violators” and any enforcement actions against them. Look for “Severe Violators” in the left column.
AFL-CIO Death on the Job Report: This webpage links to annual reports with state and national profiles and statistics on injuries, illnesses, fatalities, inspections, penalties, agency resources, and more. It also offers a digital toolkit that includes infographics and a fact sheet.
Good Jobs First Violation Tracker: This site features a search engine on corporate misconduct, which scans dozens of federal government data sources for cases covering consumer protection, environmental, health, safety, and much more.