Labor conquers all- the Oklahoma State Motto
Additionally, the ODOL has jurisdiction for the inspection of welded steam lines, boiler and pressure vessels, elevators, amusement and water rides, and water heaters in public facilities. The Department is responsible for the certification of welders and weld-testing laboratories as well as the regulation and certification of asbestos workers.
Since statehood, Oklahoma has only had eighteen (18) Commissioners of Labor. The office is a Constitutionally created office. In terms of personnel, the agency is among the states smallest with less than one hundred employees. The ODL has an annual budget of $7.5 million dollars. Mark Costello is the current Oklahoma Commissioner of Labor. He was elected in November 2010.
According to the department’s website, Costello is a 4th generation Oklahoman born in Bartlesville. Mark graduated from the University of Kansas in 1980. He met and married his wife Cathy in 1982 and they have five children Christian, Ian, Anna Marie, Caitlin and Kolbe. They currently reside in Edmond.
Costello was in the technology business before he ran for office. He founded and ran several tech companies. A fiscal conservative, Commissioner Costello believes that his private sector business experience is an asset in doing his job.
One of the functions of the Oklahoma Labor Department is the gathering of statistical data to help employers. Statistics gathered by the Oklahoma Department of Labor for the US Bureau of Labor Statistics show that employees with less than one year of service are twice as likely to be injured at work as employees with more than five years of service with the same employer. These statistics suggest a direct causal link between workplace injuries and the amount of time an employee has worked for the same employer.
The statistics gather by the ODL are consistent with the data compiled by Zurich, the second-largest writer of commercial general liability insurance in America, on workers comp claims. They found that claims from new employees account for a disproportionate share of workers’ compensation claims and related costs. Zurich cites reasons like inexperience, lack of skills or training, unrecognized hazards, unfamiliar surroundings, and careless or reckless efforts to complete tasks on time as reasons for the on-the-job injuries. Young workers – those under age 25 – are twice as likely to be injured on the job as older workers. The full report can be accessed at http://www.zurichna.com/internet/zna/SiteCollectionDocuments/en/media/whitepapers/Zurich-M-Recession-workers-comp.pdf
Each year, more than 4.1 million people in the United States suffer a workplace injury or occupational illness. The injury rate is about 4.4 cases per 100 full-time workers. Through the years, the rate of injured workers has steadily increased which in turn costs business more in workers comp insurance.
Much of the increase in premiums is due to fraudulent claims and business trying to deceive the insurance companies. According to the Coalition against Insurance Fraud (formed by the insurance industry in 1993), http://www.insurancefraud.org/ some businesses illegally try to avoid paying full state-required workers compensation premiums. One scheme involves paying workers off the books because the number of employees is a factor in determining a business’s premiums. Another scheme involves misclassifying employees in high-risk jobs as holding lower-risk jobs. The Oklahoma Department of Labor is charged with making sure employers are providing workers comp to employees as required by law. They balance that by working to help businesses reduce their workers comp premiums by providing a safe workplace for their employees.
The Oklahoma Department of Labor offers a ‘Workers' Compensation Premium Reduction Program’ http://www.ok.gov/odol/Business_Services/Safety_Pays_OSHA_Consultation/Workers to help employers earn certification by demonstrating a strong commitment to workplace safety and health which is reflected in a reduced occupational injury/illness experience. Employers can earn up to a 15 percent reduction in their workers' compensation insurance premium by getting certified. That is significant because businesses don’t pay taxes, fees or workers comp premiums. Their customers do. A business can only pass along the cost.
For decades, the Oklahoma Labor Department was very cozy with the state’s labor unions. The ODL’s enforcement of the ‘prevailing wage’ law on public projects cost Oklahoma taxpayers millions of dollars through the years. But in 1994, former three term Labor Commissioner Brenda Reneau( a Republican) took on the unions by challenging the Little Davis-Bacon(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DavisâBacon_Act) Act. Reneau's courage resulted in its repeal in 2000. Up until Reneau took the helm at the ODL, few Oklahomans knew the function of the agency, let along how it impacted their wallets.
The Department of Labor performs an important function in Oklahoma government. The state is fortunate to have a Labor Commissioner whose business background will make the Labor Department more effective for both businesses and employees. For the previous four years(under Lloyd Fields), the Department had digressed to nothing more than a front for the unions. Costello is a breath of fresh air in an agency that needed an airing out.