OSHA estimates that half of workplace injuries go unreported

Despite new reporting requirements, OSHA says half of serious workplace injuries go unreported.

New reporting requirements introduced by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) are delivering new insights into the state of workplace safety in the United States. According to CNN, OSHA recently released a report into the number of serious workplace injuries in the U.S., the first such report since the federal agency began requiring companies to report serious injuries within 24 hours. The findings reveal high injury rates in certain sectors, such as manufacturing and construction. However, OSHA says the figures likely underrepresent the true number of serious workplace injuries.

New reporting requirements

Prior to 2015, employers were only required to report a workplace fatality to OSHA within six hours of it happening. Serious injuries went unreported, which made OSHA's job of improving worker safety extremely difficult. As OSHA itself points out, in many cases involving a worker fatality there was a history at the workplace of serious injuries. If that lack of safety had been addressed earlier then it is likely that many worker deaths could have been avoided.

Beginning in 2015, OSHA began requiring employers to also report serious injuries that result in amputation, eye loss, or hospitalization. The data from 2015, which was released this year, show 7,636 reported hospitalizations of workers and 2,644 amputations. Manufacturing was responsible for 57 percent of all amputations, while construction, transportation, and the oil and gas industries also saw high injury rates.

Many injuries go unreported

While the number of injuries reported is certainly high, the figures do not show the whole story. As the Washington Post reports, OSHA believes that about half of serious injuries that occur at workplaces are still going unreported. In some cases, injuries are unreported simply because companies, especially small ones, are unaware of the new reporting requirements.

In other cases, however, the lack of reporting is due to employers trying to hide unsafe practices. Because OSHA has just 2,500 inspectors for up to eight million workplaces, the agency relies heavily on companies to self-report. In some instances, this can lead to unscrupulous employers deliberately disobeying safety standards. In one case, for example, OSHA inspectors arrived at a manufacturing facility where a worker had lost a finger in an accident. The inspectors found forklifts parked in front of doors in an attempt to prevent them from getting through and workers in darkened rooms who were told to be quiet so as not to attract the attention of the inspectors. When inspectors finally entered those rooms, they found exposed machinery that could have led to further amputations.

Workers' compensation

A workplace injury presents not just physical and emotional challenges, but also financial ones as well. Workers' compensation is designed to help ease some of the financial burden caused by a work-related injury. However, the process for claiming workers' compensation can be complicated and confusing. A workers' compensation attorney can assist in a number of ways. An experienced attorney can help injured workers understand what forms of compensation they may be entitled to and help them fight to receive that compensation.