Study Reveals Federal Data Underreports Amputation Work Injuries

On March 7, MedicalXpress provided information on a disturbing study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. According to the study, the Bureau of Labor Statistics is significantly underreporting the number of amputations following jobsite accidents. The study was conducted by Michigan State University and the Michigan Department of Community Health, but it raises concerns on a national level. 1338212_business_man.jpg

Our Carolina workers’ compensation attorneys understand amputation injuries can be particularly devastating and are a common risk in many occupations. Amputation injuries are life-changing and a worker who loses a limb, fingers, toes or other body parts may need expensive and ongoing medical treatment as a result. Permanent impairment may also result, even with the use of prosthetic limbs.

It is essential for the full number of amputation injuries to be recorded and it is disturbing that some workers who have suffered such serious injury are not being counted.

The Study on Amputation Injury Underreporting
The Bureau of Labor statistics assembles information from all of the states throughout the U.S. on the number of work injuries and types of work injuries that occur over the course of the year.

Health care providers must also report to the state certain types of injuries that occur, regardless of whether those injuries were work-related or not. Detailed data is collected in Michigan by MSU.

Researchers conducting the study on amputations after workplace accidents reviewed available data on both reported health issues/injuries and on the number of work injuries the BLS was told about. Based on the information, researchers found that 616 work-related amputations occurred within the state of Michigan in 2008. Unfortunately, the federal estimate published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics was that there were only 250 amputations in the state. The actual number of amputations from jobsite accidents, therefore, was around two-and-a-half times the number of amputations the BLS indicated occurred.

While this research focused on Michigan, the problem may be far more widespread and the BLS may simply not be reporting on the number of amputations correctly. Errors are likely being made because the BLS reportedly bases it estimates on a review of surveys from only a sample of local employers who are required to complete the questionnaire.

These sample sizes, clearly, may not be fully representative of how many amputations and injuries are occurring. Without accurate knowledge of exactly how many amputations are happening due to work accidents throughout the United States, lawmakers and regulators are less able to effectively do their jobs. As a co-author of the study stated: “How do you know where to deploy your resources?” if you have incorrect numbers and don’t know how many people are getting into accidents that cause amputations.

The co-author of the study also expressed concern that it would be difficult to measure whether programs were successful in reducing the number of amputations after work injuries if there was no clear way to measure how many occurred.

It is very important that this measure of human loss be accurate, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics can and should consider a change. According to the MedicalXpress article, BLS altered their use of a survey-based system for tracking fatalities at work because they realized the system was missing around ½ of workplace deaths. A switch was made to including data from police reports, death certificates and other sources and BLS is now more accurate in measuring worker death. Yet, the same outdated survey system remains for calculating the number of amputations, and should be changed to provide a more accurate picture of the state of workplace accidents and injuries.

If you have been injured at work in North or South Carolina, contact the Lee Law Offices at 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:
North Carolina Workplace Injuries Must Be Tracked By Employer, Feb. 28, 2013, Charlotte Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog

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