Is OSHA Doing Its Job to Protect Workers?

Past studies of U.S. employers have shown on-the-job injuries are significantly under reported by almost one half.  Why is this important?  The reporting of on-the-job accidents is intended to help employers, workers and government entities evaluate the safety of workplaces, understand industry hazards, and implement worker protections.  An understanding of what is causing work injuries can reduce and eliminate hazards, thereby preventing future workplace injuries and illnesses.  But, if we are basing our understanding of worker safety in the U.S. on information that includes only the current employer reported injuries, we are apparently missing half of the story.

With the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, Congress created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to assure safe and healthful working

conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance.  https://www.osha.gov/about.html  Most employers with more than 10 employees are required to keep a record of serious work-related injuries and illnesses. Minor injuries requiring first aid only do not need to be recorded. To ensure proper reporting, OSHA is responsible for investigating and issuing citations for violations.

The federal Labor Department’s Office of Inspector General issued a report dated 9/13/2018 assessing OSHA’s performance in investigating workplace injuries and enforcing reporting requirements.  The report concludes, “We attributed the incomplete reporting of fatalities and severe injuries and limited assurance employers abated hazards properly to OSHA’s lack of guidance and training on detecting and preventing underreporting, inconsistent use of citations as a deterrent, inadequate documentation supporting essential decisions, and lack of verification of actions taken by employers to abate hazards.” 

For more information, the Inspector General’s report can be found at https://www.oig.dol.gov/public/reports/oa/2018/02-18-203-10-105.pdf

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Kimberly J. Syfrett

Attorney at Law

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