New Rule Helps Public Health Agencies Track and Prevent Workplace Injury and Illness

Nearly 5,000 workers die each year and millions are injured on the job in the U.S., costing roughly $250 billion per year. This amount is more than the cost of many other common diseases. The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) yesterday released a new rule requiring employers to electronically report to OSHA all work-related injuries and illnesses. This new rule will significantly improve the capacity for states to track and prevent work-related injuries and illnesses.

Atlanta, GA, May 12, 2016 --( A new federal OSHA rule will give public health epidemiologists valuable new information about work-related injuries and illnesses that will add to existing sources of data on the state and federal level.

“The OSHA Rule to Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses is a welcome addition to the toolkit used by public health investigators to prevent work-related injuries and illnesses,” says Jeffrey Engel, MD, executive director of the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists (CSTE).

The burden of work-related injuries and illnesses is enormous, with nearly 5,000 workers dying each year and millions injured on the job. Occupational injuries and illnesses are overlooked contributors to the overall national costs of all diseases, injuries, and deaths, with an estimated cost of roughly $250 billion per year. This amount is more than the cost of many other common diseases. More than half the costs of occupational injury and illness are borne by individuals and their families, private insurance carriers, and taxpayers rather than worker compensation insurance.

For too many years, public health agencies have struggled to find the preventable causes of work-related injuries and illnesses. Unlike infectious diseases, public health reporting of work-related injury and illness has lagged. Under this new rule, employers will be required to submit to OSHA data that they already collect for posting on the agency website. Electronic reporting by employers of work-related injuries and illnesses will give more timely and accurate information so that state health departments can quickly respond to existing and emerging workplace hazards. State public health agencies will be able to use these data to provide assistance to high-risk establishments with recommendations on best practices to prevent workers from getting hurt on the job.

CSTE is a non-profit organization that represents over 1,700 public health epidemiologists in all states and territories and provides technical advice and assistance to partner organizations, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists
Chad McCoull