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Risk Management

Leveraging Your Industry’s OSHA Incidence Rate

Ask anyone, “What is the best total case incidence rate?” and you are bound to hear “zero.” But benchmarking a safety program’s effectiveness against zero is not exactly doable. See how OSHA’s industry incidence rates can provide a more balanced standard.

July 17, 2023

Every industry comes with different risks and hazards, so it can be difficult for organizations to gauge what a “good” incidence rate looks like, even with averages calculated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). An OSHA incidence rate gives companies a better perspective of their safety performance through a comparable figure for their industry.

“In 2021, the incidence rate for total OSHA recordable cases remained unchanged from 2020 at 2.7 per 100 full-time workers,” said Beverly Covey, Senior Risk Control Manager at Safety National. “However, it is important to note that while the total recordable rate may have dropped since 2017, the days away, transferred, or restricted (DART) rate for more serious nonfatal injuries and illnesses has actually increased.”*

Here we explore how an OSHA rate is calculated and how an organization can begin best utilizing this data.

What is an OSHA incidence rate?

An OSHA incidence rate (IR) represents the number of OSHA recordable injuries and illnesses that occur among a given number of full-time workers (usually based on 100) over a given period of time (typically one calendar year). OSHA incidence rates are calculated using the following formula:

  • Number of injuries and illnesses X 200,000 / Employee hours worked

OSHA’s category division is also incredibly granular, sectioning large industries like construction and manufacturing into identifiable groups that are further divided. This provides companies with the closest relatable field to their own without compromising data. This data includes the total recordable cases, cases with days away from work, cases with days of job transfer or restriction, and other recordable cases.

How can an organization leverage this data?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), OSHA’s incidence rate data can “help determine problem areas and progress in preventing work-related injuries and illness.” A company looking to effectively use this data to reach their safety goals can start with these tips.

  • Calculate OSHA incidence rates as a form of benchmarking for evaluating the effectiveness of safety programs versus industry peers.
  • Share OSHA incidence rates internally with managers in various locations to engage them in healthy competition with each other.
  • Use OSHA incidence rate data to gauge how well a new safety program or initiative is working by measuring the rate before the program or initiative is started. Measure the rate one-to-two years after implementing the program to determine the program’s performance.
  • Educate senior leadership on how OSHA incidence rates might correlate to production and quality metrics to obtain an increase in safety budgets.

* Please note that the Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses data for 2022 is scheduled to be released on Wednesday, November 8, 2023, at 10:00 A.M. EST.

For more information on this topic, please contact [email protected].