Back strains and muscle problems related to stress and repetitive movements were the most common safety concerns that workers claim are overlooked at their companies, according to research from FindLaw. But what’s more startling is that one in ten have suffered an injury at work but did not report it for fear of consequences. And that’s a figure that the Occupational Health & Safety Administration wants to eliminate.
The Administration’s program to identify under-recording of workplace injuries saw the Department of Labor inspect “a few hundred facilities” between 2009 and about 2012. At about half the establishments, an OSHA spokesperson says, 23% of injury cases were either not recorded or under-recorded.
Earlier in the month, the DOL sued AT&T for suspending 13 workers who reported workplace injuries between 2011 and 2013.
"It is against the law for employers to discipline or suspend employees for reporting injuries," says the DOL’s David Michaels. "[B]y discouraging workers from reporting injuries, it increases the likelihood of more workers being injured in the future. And the Labor Department will do everything in its power to prevent this type of retaliation."
Here’s how not to falter under the gaze of the DOL:
Don't reward under-reporting
According to an OSHA spokesperson, incentive programs based on injury and illness rates pose legal problems, since the incentives may constitute unlawful retaliation. “We've seen employers, for example, offer prizes or enter workers into a raffle if they meet a goal of not incurring reportable injuries over a certain period of time,” the spokesperson says. “Programs like these ultimately discourage workers from reporting injuries because they do not want to be perceived as having ruined the goal for everyone else.”
Actively encourage temps to report injuries
Temporary workers have a significantly higher risk of injury, with a 50% higher incidence rate in California and Florida, and up to 72% higher in Minnesota, according to analysis by ProPublica. That risk is even higher in blue collar workplaces: in Florida, temporary blue collar workers were six times as likely to be injured than non-temporary workers doing similar jobs. While OSHA’s capacity to collect data on unrecorded injuries is limited, the spokesperson states “our NEP inspections did find that employers routinely failed to record injuries and illnesses suffered by temporary workers.”
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No matter the workplace, there is always some level of risk when it comes to staff injuries. Indeed, one in five Americans report suffering an injury in the course of their job that caused them to take time off work.