“I now realize that I must have had my first glimmer of the need for preventive journalism as a young West Virginian who would hear of a mine disaster, then read heartbreaking stories of weeping widows and indignant editorials demanding effective safety regulations. But in the years that followed, no reporter went down into the mines to see if they were safer. We only found out they were not after the next disaster when a new round of heartbreaking articles and indignant editorials would appear.” — Charles Peters, Understanding government.com
This week the Labor Department began releasing data that reporters could use to identify dangerous mines before disaster strikes. On April 7, agencies had to release their plans for complying with the White House’s Open Government Directive. Labor was one of the few that released new datasets in a searchable and at least partially downloadable format along with its plan. With mine safety data, released for the the first time in bulk, users can search for mine inspection data by state or even zip code.
Labor created a Web site that hosts the five new enforcement datasets they released earlier in the week, which cover a range of topics including pensions and employment benefits, mine safety, workplace accidents and minimum wage standards.
The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Program traces all complaints against federal contractors and subcontractors that are required to take affirmative action ensuring equal employment opportunity for people of color, race, disability and veterans. This “discrimination” data can be easily related to other databases, like USASpending.gov that track government spending, because it provides the DUNS numbers used to identify contractors.
Labor also released the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s enforcement data which consists of over 100,000 inspections conducted annually and lists companies that have citations, violations, penalties and workplace accidents.
Most of this data has been available either online–in rigid interfaces that don’t allow users to sort results–or through a Freedom of Information Act request. Labor has made all the enforcement data available on one site, searchable by state and zip code and at least partially downloadable.
In the coming months Labor will expand the information available on mine safety, adding important data such as the kinds of violation and penalties levied on mines across the country.