Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Wal-Mart Gets the Gold Medal For Employee Safety

In a comment about my post Wal-Mart Gets Gold Medal for Pleasing Consumers, Walt G. says "You don’t have to take my word about Wal-Mart’s and Sam’s Club safety records, go here to the OSHA website and type in Wal-Mart or Sam’s Club to see for yourself, they get the Lead Medal for employee safety."

I did go to the Department of Labor's website for OSHA enforcement inspections over the last 5 years and typed in Wal-Mart, Target and Home Depot and obtained these results: 535, 242, and 326 for those 3 employers. I also obtained the number of employees per company using Yahoo Finance (1.9 million, 352,000 and 247,520), and then calcuatled the number of OSHA inspections per 100,000 employees at each company, and those calculations are displayed above in the graph.

As you can see, Target has almost 2.5 X as many OSHA inspections as Wal-Mart, and Home Depot has almost 5 times as many OSHA inspection.

Conclusion: Wal-Mart has a much better safety record than either Target or Home Depot, measured by inspections per employee, and therefore gets the Gold Medal for employee safety, not the Lead Medal.

(Update: Graph has been revised to include GM in response to Walt G.'s comments, Wal-Mart still gets the Gold!).


At 5/22/2007 1:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually I was comparing Wal-Mart to unionized heavy industry (more specifically General Motors). Wal-Mart is at 535, as you correctly pointed out, and General Motors is at 115. I realize that Wal-Mart has more employees than GM and a proper comparison would take that into account. Regardless of the number of employees, though, I would expect a retail establishment to be a substantially safer environment than a factory and a cursory check of numbers does not bear that out.

Your comparison between retail establishments might be a better comparison for your purposes, but that was not what I was using for comparison in my earlier post. I don’t dispute your graphs and comparisons. I still like a lot of things that Wal-Mart does.

At 5/22/2007 4:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, if the average General Motors’ employee works 48 hours per week because they eliminated too many employees through buy-outs, and the average Wal-Mart employee works 24 hours per week because Wal-Mart doesn’t want to pay benefits, it’s about the same number of OSHA inspections per employee per worked hour. I suppose it’s rather easy to view data out of context.

Probably the amount of fines imposed from the violations found during the inspections with hazards inherent in the different types of work factored into the model would be a better indicator of safety compliance; however, you’ve made your point. By the measures we’ve defined, Wal-Mart shines in their field and receives the Gold Medal.

As happens a lot, surprises occur when looking at the outliers in data that invoke more questions. In this case, this question seems to arise: What is Home Depot doing wrong concerning their employees’ safety?

At 5/24/2007 9:54 AM, Blogger juandos said...

Ahhh Walt, Dr. Perry did compare between big box retail outlets...

It is interesting that GM was thrown into the mix and telling quite as well...

One wonders if the GM numbers also include people in offices, engineers doing testing and so on?

In your second comment Walt: "if the average General Motors’ employee works 48 hours per week because they eliminated too many employees through buy-outs, and the average Wal-Mart employee works 24 hours per week because Wal-Mart doesn’t want to pay benefits"....

Well first off no one HAS TO WORK AT GM, right?

Second, why should Wal-Mart waste shareholder dollars on paying benefits to their employees?

Wal-Mart isn't in the business to hand out jobs and benefits, its to sell items and services their customers want...

The reason GM does it was due to collective bargaining and if Wal-Mart's employees collectivly bargain with Wal-Mart management and benefits are the result, then that's another plus for capitalism...

Personally I think collective bargaining is capitalism at its finest...

At 5/24/2007 1:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here’s how Michigan Worker Compensation Law pays for your body parts. You can't sue your employer. This is the number of weeks’ pay at 80% of your after-tax wages that you will be paid for your loss. It’s quite easy for a business to cost-justify safety investments using these amounts of risk. Unrepresented employees often do not have the clout to compel employers to exceed these parameters.

Table 1
Specific Loss Schedule: What are "specific loss" benefits?

Thumb 65
1st Finger 38
2nd Finger 33
3rd Finger 22
4th Finger 16
Great Toe 33
Other Toes 11
Hand 215
Arm 269
Foot 162
Leg 215
Eye 162


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