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Government workplace injury data plan raises privacy concerns

Every worker in North Carolina is entitled to a safe work environment. Employers are required by law to provide this. Information can be a crucial part of improving safety conditions at work. Consequently, the federal government is proposing that specific data on workplace injuries be made available online. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is proposing that employers break down injury and illness reports and make them available on the Internet. The public would then be able to view information about the illnesses and injuries reported by a business each year. The new rule would not affect businesses with less than 20 employees.

OSHA is in charge of enforcing workplace safety regulations in the country. The institution also investigates workplace accidents.

Although the number of workplace injuries per 100 full-time workers is already available online, the information is not broken down by employers. Federal officials believe the data will help them focus on problem sectors in the country. They also say that employees will have access to the information. One official said the information will push employers to identify and eliminate hazards more effectively.   

The move has met resistance from some states. One governor for instance raised concerns over the privacy of workers. He stated that the move could put employees in an embarrassing and intimidating position. The data can be very helpful to workers when evaluating their employer’s safety record.

While it is important to prevent workplace accidents, a worker’s right to privacy in North Carolina should not be compromised.  Such information can make employees susceptible to harsh repercussions for reporting workplace injuries, although it is illegal to retaliate against workers for reporting injuries. A delicate balance must be struck between keeping the public informed and protecting workers.

Source: Associated Press, “Maine governor resists workplace safety data plan,”  March 8, 2014

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