The assistant secretary of labor for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has notified 14,000 employers nationwide that their injury and illness rates are considerably higher than the national average.

In a letter sent in March to those employers, Assistant Secretary Edwin G. Foulke Jr. explained that the notification was a proactive step to encourage employers to take action now to reduce rates and improve safety and health conditions in their workplaces.

“A high injury and illness rate is costly to employees and employers in both personal and financial terms,” Foulke said. “Our goal is to make them aware of their high injury and illness rates and to get them to focus on eliminating hazards in their workplace. To help them in this regard, OSHA offers free assistance programs to help employers better protect the safety and health of their employees.”

OSHA identified businesses with the nation’s highest rates of workplace injuries and illnesses through employer-reported data from a 2007 survey of 80,000 work sites. Workplaces receiving notifications had 5.4 or more injuries resulting in days away from work, restricted work activity or transfer of job (DART) for every 100 full-time employees. Nationally, the average U.S. workplace had 2.3 DART occurrences for every 100 employees.

Employers receiving the letters also were provided copies of their injury and illness data, along with a list of the most frequently cited OSHA standards for their specific industry. The letter also offered assistance in helping turn the numbers around by suggesting, among other things, the use of free OSHA safety and health consultation services provided through the states, state workers’ compensation agencies, insurance carriers, or outside safety and health consultants.