Severe and fatal workplace injuries underreported by OSHA

The Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector General released an audit report in September stating that OSHA has not been doing enough to keep track of serious and fatal workplace injuries. This is despite the fact that the safety organization had made changes to its injury and illness recordkeeping rule, which went into effect in January 2015. Employees and employers in New Jersey will want to know more about the report and how OSHA has responded.

The OIG estimates that 50 percent or more of serious injuries have gone unreported ever since the rule changes. It also found a lack of training regarding how to detect and stop underreporting. OSHA has additionally been inconsistent in its issuing of citations to late reporters.

The OIG made four recommendations, the first being that OSHA properly train workers on identifying underreporting. The second was that OSHA issue citations more consistently. It also called for clarification on how staff should gather evidence showing that an employer has corrected the hazards. Lastly, the OIG recommended inspections for all Category 1 incidents.

OSHA responded that the findings erroneously suggest the burden of reporting to fall on itself rather than on the employer. It also stated that some employers’ failure to report would come to light after the six-month statute of limitations, preventing OSHA from issuing a citation.

An injured employee who wishes to be covered for their lost wages and medical expenses through the workers’ compensation program will have to report their accident. They must also show that the accident was indeed work-related and that the injuries they report are linked to the accident. This will likely mean getting legal assistance. A lawyer could mount an appeal if the claim is denied.

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