With the enactment of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Act in 1970, the foundation was laid for OSHA to collect, track, analyze, and maintain national Injury and Illness (I&I) statistics and trends. This information was formally needed to develop baselines, measure and monitor progress, and to set national level program improvements.1 While other agencies, particularly the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), had been maintaining data for several decades prior to 1970, OSHA’s data focused goal was to collect and maintain I&I related data broadly across American workplace, including private and public employers. OSHA requires employers with more than 10 employees (with rare exemption for certain low-risk industries), to maintain and report data on serious work-related injuries and illnesses.2 Minor injuries requiring only first aid do not need to be recorded. Records of injuries meeting OSHA’s specific criteria for reportable/recordable injuries need to be maintained and reported in a timely fashion per 29 CFR 1904. This data collection and I&I statistics help both employers and OSHA to identify and manage local and national trends, and to streamline corrective actions priorities.

Important Safety and Health Statistics

Injury PyramidAll I&I, near misses (also known as near hits) and property damage (including environmental), are important for employers to monitor, assess, and track. Data was collected, analyzed, and reported starting with H. W. Heinrich’s classical work in 1931, further developed by Frank E. Bird (1969), and later confirmed by the Conoco Phillips Marine study (2003) that roughly estimated for every fatality (or major disability), there are nearly 300 recordable injury cases, and an estimated 3,000 near misses.3 The Conoco Phillips study further added the human behavior context and estimated that for every single fatality there are at least 300,000 at-risk behaviors of activities inconsistent with safety programs, training and components on machinery.4 Despite minor variation in the three studies, the common message is that it would be unwise to direct one’s effort solely at the relatively few serious events, because there are many more opportunities for eliminating the hazardous conditions identified by the near misses, or identification and management of trends related to at-risk behavior. Organizations have thus found it is valuable to avail the opportunities and mitigate potential hazards at the lowest level of the pyramid. Corrective actions can be of significant value to employee health and safety when directed at incidents and minor accidents with a high loss potential.

OSHA Recordable Injuries

Employers are required to record all injuries meeting the OSHA’s ‘recordable injury’ criteria (except minor first-aid cases) on the OSHA 300 Log, and those meeting the ‘reportable’ criteria (e.g., hospitalizations or deaths), are to be reported to OSHA immediately, or within 24 hours of occurrence, as per the criteria defined in 29 CFR 1904. All work-related illnesses are considered recordable cases. Before February 1st of each year, a summary of prior year I&I needs to be submitted to OSHA using form 300a. OSHA’s Form 300a also needs to be signed by the organization’s senior executive. This annual summary is required to be prominently posted in common areas until replaced by the next year’s summary. Compliance with this recordkeeping requirement is part of OSHA’s facility inspections.

Near Misses/Near Hits

Near misses are unsafe working conditions or employee behavior events that fall into the category of “almost happened, could’ve happened, or got away with this one”. These are events where a worker escaped by chance but could have otherwise been seriously injured or killed. While near misses are not required to be recorded or reported, employers should consistently monitor and evaluate each near miss to understand the impact and possible preventions. Organizations that truly care for employees work towards the goal of zero injuries, illnesses, and property damage in their workplaces. Corrective actions for near misses can make the difference between an average organization with high I&I rates, or an organization with world-class safety programs that result in low I&I rates (and zero fatalities).

Performance Indicators (Leading vs. Lagging)

An organization must identify key performance indicators (KPI) to measure safety performance and identify areas requiring improvement. Historically, and primarily because of regulatory reporting requirements, U.S. businesses have relied on lagging performance indicators. The common lagging indicators include, but are not limited to: injury rates and absenteeism typically expressed as Total Recordable Injury Rate (TRIR), Day Away, Restricted or Transfer (DART), Lost Workday Case Rate (LWD-CR). However, these lagging KPIs indicate what has already happened, and thus are only indicative of past performance. A growing body of research and evidence asserts that leading indicators offer a more useful gauge of workplace safety. Leading indicators are typically specific to an organization’s culture and operations, and some commonly used leading indicators include the number of: workers trained, workplace hazards identified, hazards corrected, and behavioral observations conducted. These types of leading indicators provide early warning signs of potential failure that enable organizations to identify and correct deficiencies before they mature into accidents and injuries.5

Altarum Institute’s safety and health experts recommend gauging organizational workplace safety performance by using a well-balanced combination of both leading and lagging KPIs. It is important to document where an organization stands in reference to the performance metrics required of legislative agencies (e.g., injuries, illnesses, fatalities, property damage), and it is equally important to manage workplace safety and health by leading measures that help prevent unsafe working conditions. 

Leading Sources of Safety and Health Statistics

Safety and health statistics are ever changing, and Altarum utilizes multiple recognized organizations that provide reliable workplace safety and health data. A listing of these main reporting organizations, websites, and data reported is as follows:

Reporting Organization Data Reported
Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)
All injury, illness, and fatalities
National Safety Council (NSC) - NSC Injury Facts
All injury, illness, and fatalities in various sectors
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
Workplace-related injury, illness, and fatalities for general, construction and maritime
Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA)
Workplace-related injury and illness statistics for mines
Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), Facts & Statistics - Safety
Injury and illness statistics related to transportation
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, WISQARS™ (Web-based Injury Statistics Query & Reporting System)
Injury and illness statistics related to public health, pesticides, medical facilities, and poisoning


  1. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Oct 1991, Vol-33-Issue 10, pg-1071 ‘Who is Counting Anyway? Eileen McNeely, http://journals.lww.com/joem/Citation/1991/10000/Who_s_Counting_Anyway___The_Problem_with.14.aspx
  2. US DOL, OSHA Injury and Illness Recordkeeping and Reporting Requirements, https://www.osha.gov/recordkeeping/index.html
  3. The Safety Triangle Explained, by Kevin Nichol, posted Jul 18, 2012 - Wednesday, July 18, 2012, crsp-safety101.blogspot.com/2012/07/the-safety-triangle-explained.html
  4. Sustainable Safety Management, Incident Management as a Cornerstone for a Successful Safety Culture Bernd Freibott, http://www.asse.org/assets/1/7/BerndFreibottArticle.pdf
  5. Leading indicators of construction safety performance, Safety Science 51(1):23–28 ·2013, Jimmie Hinze, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/257356475_Leading_indicators_of_construction_safety_performance

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