An AFL-CIO affiliate has posted data on 60,000 companies online.
Nearly 100 years after Upton Sinclair wrote The Jungle, a new workplace safety watchdog has emerged. Job Tracker, an online database launched late last year by a group called Working America, lists safety and health violations and related data for more than 60,000 U.S. companies. Browsers can use the site to call up details on a company's injury rate and specific violations cited by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, as well as any workplace fatalities or catastrophic incidents.
The database--which was culled from OSHA records, documents obtained via Freedom of Information Act requests, and material gathered by the website Opensecrets.org--provides safety information dating back to January 1, 2000.
Working America, an AFL-CIO affiliate, also tracks companies that are on "OSHA watch," meaning they have received letters from the government urging them to remove workplace hazards that are tied to high rates of occupational injury and illness. (A watch letter also conveys to a company that it may be the subject of future inspection.)
Not surprisingly, business owners aren't thrilled to see this information aired in public. "Good or bad, I don't see how a private enterprise's safety record is of anyone's interest other than that company and its insurance carrier," says John Dunkin, president of Rogue Valley Door, a door manufacturer based in Grants Pass, Oreg. Among the violations listed on the site for Rogue Valley Door are two accidents, one that resulted in a worker losing two fingers and another that required the amputation of a worker's hand.
Dunkin says that Working America's database, which he hadn't heard of prior to speaking with Inc., will not cause him to alter his company's safety plan. "We work with our insurance carrier to make sure we keep up with our responsibilities to OSHA," he says, "and we do the best we can with what we've got."
Still, Milton Jacobs, president of Safety Solution Consultants, a workplace safety consultancy in East Granby, Conn., believes the database could have an impact on company behavior, especially where subcontracting is concerned. If you hire a subcontractor whose safety record is noted on the database and there is an accident, you may have greater legal exposure. Says Jacobs: "We've been seeing more and more companies asking for the safety records, accident history, and rates from their subcontractors."
Staff editor KASEY WEHRUM has written for Inc. magazine on subjects ranging from the businesses behind professional bull riding to gadget inventor and father of the infomercial, Ron Popeil. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Worth, Budget Travel, and on MSNBC.com. He lives in Brooklyn.