March 19, 2007 The Pump Handle 5Comment

More than 14,000 workplaces received unwelcome letters in the mail last week from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).  The agency used data from a survey of 80,000 workplaces to identify those sites with injury rates that were more than twice the national average, and notified them with a personal letter.  Recipients of the OSHA letter include: Lowe’s, Home Depot, United Parcel Service, Wal-Mart, Harley-Davidson, and two Jelly Belly candy factories, with the highest percentage of letters (23 percent) sent to residential nursing care facilities. 

More than 3,200 employers in 3-digit SIC code 805 or NAICS 623 receive the notice from OSHA (data here for residential nursing care sites) including 67 sites operated by Beverly Enterprises, 46 Kindred Care sites, and 32 Evangelical Lutheran sites.  Among all workplaces, employers in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Texas received the most letters; none were sent to worksites in the 21 States that operate their own OSHA State Program. 

The data made available by OSHA includes the company name, address, and industrial classification codes (i.e., SIC and NAICS), but does not provide worksite-specific injury rates.  The national average injury and illness rate for 2006 was 2.4 (for days away from work, restricted work activity or job transfer (DART) for every 100 full-time employees.)  The 14,000 workplaces identified by OSHA for this notification had rates of 5.3 DART instances per every 100 workers.

OSHA noted that these sites are not necessarily designated for any future inspections, but rather:

“this identification process is meant to raise awareness that injuries and illnesses are high at these facilities…and to persuade employers to use resources at their disposal to address these hazards and reduce occupational injuries and illnesses.”   

Based on my review of the 14,000 sites, the employers who received the most letters include: Lowe’s (360 sites received the OSHA letter), United Parcel Service (215 sites), Home Depot (134 sites) and Wal-Mart (98 locations).   The following is a breakdown of the list by State and the number of workplaces notified by OSHA:

  • Alabama (398), Arkansas (255), Colorado (358), Connecticut (462)
  • Delaware (55), DC (5), Florida (989), Georgia (612)
  • Idaho (140), Illinois (997), Kansas (280), Louisiana (159)
  • Maine (233), Massachusetts (609), Missouri (520)
  • Mississippi (251), Montana (93), North Dakota (69)
  • Nebraska (198), New Hampshire (159), New Jersey (631)
  • New York (929), Ohio (1,265), Oklahoma (318)
  • Pennsylvania (1,462), Rhode Island (144), South Dakota (97)
  • Texas (1,242), West Virginia (197), Wisconsin (887)

5 thoughts on “Lowe’s and Nursing Homes: Hazardous Places to Work

  1. This harkens back to the perennial OSHA problem of targeting. The problem is not so much where OSHA compliance officers go, but what they do when they get there.

    It’s obvious looking at the cited companies, and the nursing homes that ergonomic problems – repetitive motion and over exertion injuries recorded mostly as strains and sprains resulting in job restriction — are driving these rates. This is even after, doing the bidding of NAM – change the recording rules to permit employers to omit these injuries from the OSHA 300 record.

    Without an ergonomics standard, or a general duty clause citation strategy, or a robust set of recommendations, we’re just wasting the compliance officers, time sending them to nursing homes and big-box stores.

    This also highlights that the bulk of injuries, and in my opinion fatalities, don’t come from the so-called “low road” employers, they come from the median employers, maybe even from employers which pay better wages benefits and provide better working conditions than the median in their sector.

  2. You’re definitely right. I hope that these high injury rates will be a sign to legislators out there who don’t believe that a ergonomic standard is needed because “healthcare facilities are already taking care of the problem on their own.”

  3. I would like to see a complete list of employee injuries reported for all Nursing and extended care facilities in the US by state. Repetitive motion and over exertion injuries eventually result in worse, more permanent injuries. This is assuming the stress, extended work hours and dismissals do not remove the employees before the injuries take place.

    For this industry, I would like to see mental exhaustion/breakdown as a recorded injury. It is the same as injuries to muscle as a result of repeated use. Stress due to overuse/abuse can damage brain cells just as much as it damages muscle cells.

    As much as I like to avoid unions in their present form, this is one industry where unions that would support ergonomic related regulations are needed.

  4. I just tried to link to the data for Nursing homes and was surprised that the data was not available yet the data for other industries is available. I wonder why. If your are going to report this information then lets have access to all the data.

  5. Ed,
    I posted all of the data in an Excel spreadsheet format in my blog post. See the highlighted phrase “14,000 sites.” You can also download the data from OSHA’s website into your our database program.


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