Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Widespread Employer Under-Reporting to OSHA

Osha_logo_xsmSo finds a new astonishing and disturbing report released by the GAO yesterday and reported on by the New York Times:

Employers and workers routinely underreport work-related injuries and illnesses, calling into question the accuracy of nationwide data that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration compiles each year, the Government Accountability Office said Monday.

The report, by the G.A.O., the auditing arm of Congress, said many employers did not report workplace injuries and illnesses for fear of increasing their workers’ compensation costs or hurting their chances of winning contracts.

The report also said workers did not report job-related injuries because they feared being fired or disciplined and worried that their co-workers might lose rewards, like bonuses or steak dinners, as part of safety-based incentive programs . . . .

According to the G.A.O. report, 67 percent of the 1,187 occupational health practitioners surveyed had reported observing worker fear of disciplinary action for reporting an injury or illness, and 46 percent said this fear had some impact on the accuracy of employers’ injury and illness records.

It goes without saying that it is hard for OSHA inspectors to do their jobs if they are faced with this type of lying/gamesmanship.  It also shows that previous reports that injuries in the workplace were declining during the conservative Bush era are a bunch of hogwash.

OSHA inspectors will now have to start with the presumption that employers may be holding back the truth as far as injuries and illnesses in the workplace and will have to interview individual employees to get information on what is really going on in the workplace: "In response to the report, which examined OSHA’s audits from 2005 to 2007, the safety administration said it would adopt the accountability office’s recommendations, which include requiring inspectors to interview employees during all audits to check the accuracy of employer-provided injury data."

And you wonder why regulation of the workplace is necessary? Because many employers (not all) cannot be trusted.

Hat Tip: Josh Pollack



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Without being dispositive, isn't this instead evidence that direct regulation of the workplace doesn't work? Why is it evidence that more regulation/enforcement/higher fines, etc., are needed?

Posted by: anon | Nov 17, 2009 2:09:57 PM

The article says that the rates have been declining since 1992 which would make the reports of the liberal Clinton era also "hogwash!"
The fact is that the rates have been declining since the beginning of the 20th century--with a much more more rapid rate of decline occurring prior to the creation of OSHA in the early 70s. This primarily due to 1) automation and safer manufacturing processes requiring fewer employees in the first half of the 20th century and 2)the outsourcing of manufacturing to foreign countries in the latter part. OSHA's claiming credit for any improvement is like the rooster claiming credit for the dawn.

Posted by: joe marino | Nov 18, 2009 9:13:21 AM

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