Workplace Injuries and Illnesses: The Confusion of Reporting

Did you know that of the companies inspected by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for recordkeeping violations nearly 50% underreported employee injuries and illnesses?

Employers that underreport face enormous fines. In 2010, Goodman Manufacturing a Houston –based maker of cooling and heating products was cited for 83 willful violations for failing to record and recording improperly work-related injuries and illnesses. The proposed fine was $1.2 million or approximately $14,500 per violation.

One of the most prevailing reasons for underreporting is that employers just do not really understand OSHA regulations and their obligations. It can be very confusing trying to determine what injuries and illnesses are OSHA reportable. OSHA considers a failure to record or improperly recording an injury as “willful” but the vast majority of employers do not intend to improperly record injuries and illnesses. It is because employers are focused on growing their businesses, and if an employee is hurt the business insures the employee receives medical attention if needed but the process stops there and that is the start of the problem.

One other reason that employers underreport workplace injuries or illnesses is “Inspection Roulette”. How many times have you heard or asked yourself “what are the odds? There are millions of business but not millions of OSHA Inspectors.”, this is roulette. You are spinning the wheel and hoping that it does not land on your space. The question you should be asking yourself is can I afford to go to a casino and bet $14,500 once on the roulette table? Can you really afford to lose?

Let’s look at an example of a possible workplace injury.

You have an employee that faints during work because of some now work related reason. You also find out that that the employee hit his head on a table as he fell. The employee appeared to be fine when you spoke to him and did not require medical attention. What would you do- report or not report? This injury would need to be reported because the employee hit his head on the table.

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