Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Wal-Mart Gets the Gold Medal For Employee Safety

OSHA Enforcement Inspections, 2006-2011
Inspections per 100,000 Employees
Home Depot
Whole Foods
2,100,000 (1,400,000 U.S. only)
10.2 (or 15.4 U.S. only)

The table above shows: a) the number of OSHA enforcement inspections over the last five years for a sample of large U.S. companies, along with b) the number of employees at those companies (from Yahoo! Finance), and finally c) the number of OSHA inspections per 100,000 employees at those companies.  

Note that when adjusted for the number of employees, Walmart has the best safety record by far among the group of retailers and manufacturers (Ford). Walmart's main competitor Target has almost six times more OSHA enforcement inspections, and Costco has twelve times as many.     

Conclusion: Wal-Mart has a much better safety record than Target, Home Depot, Lowes, McDonald's, Whole Foods, Costco and Ford, when measured by inspections per employee, and therefore gets the Gold Medal for employee safety.

Update: Even after adjusting for Walmart's U.S. employees only (1.4 million), and not adjusting any of the other companies for U.S. employees only, Walmart still comes out ahead with the best safety record per 100,000 employees.


At 6/29/2011 10:01 PM, Blogger Stephen said...

1.4M U.S. employees:

At 6/30/2011 6:18 AM, Blogger geoih said...

I'm not sure I see a cause and effect relationship, or even a correlation, here. How does having fewer inspections mean you're safer?

The number of inspections OSHA conducts is driven by many factors, such as the potential risks in that industry. Retailing is not generally as risky as manufacturing. Also, Federal OSHA would only inspect facilities in states that do not run their own occupational safety enforcement agencies (about half the country).

At 6/30/2011 8:21 AM, Blogger morganovich said...

a question:

what exactly does an "enforcement inspection" mean?

that there has been a complaint and that they have come to check it out?

i'm not sure the data is available, but it would be very interesting to see how many of these turn out to be actionable.

if there is an inspection that concludes that there is no issue, i'm not sure it really counts.

At 6/30/2011 8:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The reportable injury and illness incident rate or lost work days would be a much better metric than inspections to determine employee and visitor safety.

At 6/30/2011 11:43 AM, Blogger Buddy R Pacifico said...

What if employee safety included factories in China producing so much of Wal-Mart's products?

At 6/30/2011 11:52 AM, Blogger geoih said...

Quote from morganivich: "what exactly does an "enforcement inspection" mean?"

An inspection where a compliance officer is looking for violations. It can be driven by several mechanisms (e.g., a complaint, a regular schedule, a chance observation, etc.).

Many agencies also do consulting, assistence or training visits. Theoretically, thay aren't supposed to cite an employer during these visits, or transmit any information to the enforcement side of the agency, but there are limits to how well this works (theoretically and practically).

At 6/30/2011 11:59 AM, Blogger geoih said...

Quote from Walt G.: "The reportable injury and illness incident rate or lost work days would be a much better metric than inspections to determine employee and visitor safety."

I think the term you're looking for is recordable, not "reportable", but you are basically correct. Most employers require employees to report all of their injuries, but only a percentage of those (depending on the severity) are consider recordable under OSHA regulations.

There have been studies to show that typically OSHA injury rates are as much as 2/3 below the actual rates, due to under-reporting.

At 6/30/2011 1:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


You are completely correct. I look at our "recordables" every morning. We keep reportable internal safety data and recordable external safety data in different ways depending mostly on whether an internal root cause analysis could solve the safety problem. Our recordables are reportable to us daily :)

The severity of the injury and where the injury actually takes place are debatable. All of our accident reports are full of the word allegedly.

At 6/30/2011 2:22 PM, Blogger Michael E. Marotta said...

From the recent Wal-Mart v. Dukes case the slip opinion with Dissent, says that 70% of the employees are women. So, that could be a factor. Also, only 33% of the managers are women. That could mean that rather than being promoted off the floor, these capable and intelligent people are actively working in a safe manner. Perhaps Wal-Mart is safer because the men are promoted into offices where they cannot hurt themselves.

At 6/30/2011 4:30 PM, Blogger Marko said...

Enforcement inspections may actually be a better measure of employee dissatisfaction. In my experience, OSHA comes to inspect after a major accident or after a disgruntled employee complains to OSHA - mostly the latter. These stats may actually reflect that Walmart workers are generally not disgruntled.

I would like to see the recordables, as others have suggested, or their number of violations.

At 7/03/2011 4:31 AM, Blogger Hot Sam said...

Comparing Walmart to manufacturing firms, food service, or even retail warehouses of building materials isn't suitable.

Manufacturing firms deal with heavy machinery and components. Food service deals with machines which slice, dice, broil, and bake. Home Depot and Lowes handles large pallets of heavy lumber, sheet rock, rebar, tiles, concrete, etc.

Costco puts large pallets directly onto retail floors - slightly more dangerous than your average retailer.

The comparison with Target is the most relevant. Walmart should be compared with Target, Walgreens, and perhaps supermarkets.


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