In Illinois, worker deaths have risen by approximately 28 percent since 2013. According to federal safety regulators, 36 workers lost their lives in the state between January 1, 2016 and October 7, 2016. On average, this means that one Illinois worker was killed on the job about every week.
In response, the United States Department of Labor's Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) is asking employers throughout the state to carefully review their health and safety procedures and programs to reduce the risk for work related illness, injury and death.
Ken Nishiyama Atha, a regional director for OSHA states that the job related illnesses, injuries and fatalities that are happening in Illinois are preventable. To help create a culture of safety in the workplace, OSHA is recommending that employers develop programs that include management leadership, employee participation and hazard identification. Illinois employers should:
- Evaluate work environments to identify possible workplace hazards and encourage workers to report any safety concerns they might have
- Ensure that all tools, equipment and machinery are well maintained and in good repair
- Provide any necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) to workers
- Strictly enforce the use of PPE
- Provide safety training to employees on a regular basis
Employers have been required to report any severe workplace injuries or illnesses within 24 hours for more than a year now, and fatalities are required to be reported within 8 hours. Severe injuries are defined as any amputation, hospitalization or loss of an eye. Unfortunately, many work related injuries still go unreported. As a result, the struggle to identify and eliminate many hazards to create a safer work environment for Illinois workers continues.
In an effort to enforce compliance with workplace injury and illness reporting requirements, OSHA recently increased the penalties that employers face if they fail to comply. The minimum penalty for failing to report has risen from $1,000 to $5,000, and OSHA has the discretion to raise that amount to $7,000 for deterrent purposes. Additionally, OSHA will now be adjusting penalties annually based on the consumer price index.
To help ensure that all Illinois businesses are able to adequately protect their employees, OSHA offers free educational materials, tips and training for both workers and employers. According to Atha, combining forces with companies, workers and unions will help reduce the number of illnesses, injuries and fatalities that cost Illinois families so significantly.