Adapting and Evolving: New Labor Commissioner’s Objectives

Adapting and Evolving: New Labor Commissioner’s Objectives

Joe Hoage

By Joseph B. Hoage, Commissioner, Indiana Department of Labor

The past year has been a whirlwind, to say the least. While I am new to the agency, DOL’s mission to advance the health and safety of Hoosiers in the workplace remains the same. We want workers to experience a safe, productive day at work, earn decent wages, and go home safe at the end of their workday to the people they care about. That’s the mantra by which DOL operates, and it is the never-ending mission of the department’s Indiana Occupational Health and Safety and INSAFE divisions. And that goal is being realized, as just recently the federal Bureau of Labor Statistic’s Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses reported that Indiana remains at an historical low eight years in a row regarding workplace injuries and illnesses.


Three Key Objectives for 2021

Our primary goal is to provide programs and resources to improve workplace safety. Therefore, our key objectives over the next year include:

  • Continuing to educate employers about precautions and protections to address the COVID19 pandemic.
  • Increasing the number of employers participating in our INSAFE and INSHARP programs.
  • Completing implementation of a new registration system for employers who employ minors.


The decline in significant on-the-job injuries and illnesses shows the current process, one that balances voluntary compliance with enforcement, is working. Since 1992, this rate has declined by an impressive 71 percent. Most recently, the 2019 nonfatal occupational injury and illness rate remained at the historic low of 3.3 injuries or illnesses per 100 full-time workers.

One of the keys to this consistent downturn in worker injury and illness rates is DOL’s INSAFE program, which allows Hoosier companies to request a free and confidential workplace health and safety assessment from a state safety professional, and receive confidential counsel in correcting any noncompliance without the business receiving a formal citation or penalty. It’s an excellent program that helps to create a culture of safety for the short and longer term. The services provided can be as simple as a phone call to ask a question of one of our dedicated professionals to an on-site wall-to-wall walkthrough of your worksite. I strongly encourage Indiana businesses to take advantage of this free and confidential service – because even though Indiana’s workplace injuries and illnesses are at an historical low, one injury, illness or fatality is one too many.

On the topic of illness specifically, COVID19 has been a tremendous focal point for the agency this year, as it has undoubtedly been for every employer and employee across our state. COVID19 has required everyone to adapt and evolve to changing circumstances, to communicate with one another, and to provide a helping hand as the pandemic continues to be a part of our daily lives. We have been encouraged by the amount of effort and investment we’ve seen employers across the state make during this unprecedented time.

As we all pull together to further cultivate a culture of workplace health and safety throughout Indiana, I invite you all to participate and be a part of the 2021 Indiana Safety and Health Conference and Expo. For the first time, the 2021 conference, scheduled from March 1 – March 3, 2021, will be offered both in-person and virtually. I also encourage you to submit your applications for the 2021 Governor’s Workplace Safety Awards and the Everyday Safety Hero. Information about the conference and the awards may be found online at

Again, thank you for your dedication to the safety and well-being of Hoosier workers across our great state. Workplace safety is everyone’s responsibility, and we appreciate your diligence in doing your part.

Category Features, Last Word