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Oklahoma labor commissioner speaks against public release of workplace injury records

In Washington, Republican Mark Costello takes pro-business stance in a dispute that pits organized labor against employers.
by Chris Casteel Published: January 10, 2014

— Oklahoma Labor Commissioner Mark Costello took the side of employers here Thursday when he spoke against a proposed Obama administration rule that would require public disclosure of workplace injuries.

Speaking at a public hearing held by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Costello said the proposed rule was more about politics than public safety.

“It's the functional equivalent of a scarlet letter on individual businesses while creating a pick list for trial lawyers,” the first-term Republican commissioner said.

OSHA is proposing that employers with more than 250 workers in certain industries file records electronically each quarter that specify injuries and illnesses at their establishments; the records would be available to the public through a government website, though injured employees' names would be withheld.

Dave Schmidt, from OSHA's office of statistical analysis, said Thursday that businesses already keep the records. However, OSHA sees the information only if the agency conducts an on-site inspection or consultation.

Much smaller establishments in industries ranging from waste collection to home health care would have to submit annual reports.

OSHA has pitched the proposal as a way to identify troublesome workplace issues and ultimately improve safety. A representative from United Steelworkers International testified Thursday that the agency was “100 percent correct.”

Luke George, of the National Safety Council, said the proposed rule might increase workplace safety since it would allow OSHA to better identify places where workers were at the greatest risk and target assistance and enforcement more accurately.

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by Chris Casteel
Washington Bureau
Chris Casteel began working for The Oklahoman's Norman bureau in 1982 while a student at the University of Oklahoma. After covering the police beat, federal courts and the state Legislature in Oklahoma City, he moved to Washington in 1990, where...
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