OSHA: High Work Injury Statistics Only Half the Problem

Last month, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) released a report to detail the progress of the severe work-related injury reporting program, implemented one year ago. That report indicates there were nearly 10,400 severe work-related injuries in the U.S. in 2015 – the first full year of the new federal requirement. workers

Included in this number: Eye loss, amputation, hospitalization. All of this has to be reported in the first 24 hours. Within that 10,400 were 2,644 amputations and 7,636 hospitalizations. Fatalities have to be reported within eight hours.

But until this requirements, OSHA officials were often grasping at straws when it came to identifying an actual number of serious workplace injuries. As one official described it, each of those instances was “a wake-up call for safety that went unheeded.” 

Still, even with the new requirement, officials don’t truly have a complete accounting of all the severe injuries that occur on-the-job. In fact, OSHA has conceded as much, saying these totals are a low estimate. In fact, the Assistant Secretary of Labor went on the record as saying he believes the actual count may be twice as high – meaning those 10,000 injured workers are only half the problem.

Of those 7,636 hospitalization reports, the agency indicates:

  • 26 percent occurred in manufacturing
  • 19 percent occurred in the construction
  • 11 percent occurred in transportation and warehousing
  • 8 percent happened in retail trade
  • 6 percent occurred in health care
  • 6 percent occurred in waste management/ recycling
  • 5 percent happened in wholesale trade
  • 3 percent happened in oil and gas extraction

The other 16 percent were classified as “other.”

Of the 2,644 amputations, the agency indicated:

  • 57 percent occurred in manufacturing
  • 10 percent occurred in construction
  • 5 percent occurred in wholesale trade
  • 5 percent occurred in retail trade
  • 4 percent occurred in waste management/ recycling
  • 4 percent occurred in transportation and warehousing
  • 4 percent occurred in oil and gas extraction

The other 11 percent occurred in “other.”

Officials combed through each report, and noticed a number of trends. One of those involves finger and fingertip amputations as a result of food slicer injuries at supermarket delis. This resulted in a campaign at the Southeastern U.S. OSHA office based in Atlanta to educate food service workers and employers about the dangers of these machines. This involves a newly-developed fact sheet, “Preventing Cuts and Amputations from Food Slicers and Meat Grinders.”

Another problem identified by officials is that many employers are apparently going to significant lengths to try to conceal workplace dangers, rather than addressing and fixing them. Of course, this is short-sighted because in the end, these employers are going to end up paying more in workers’ compensation costs (assuming they maintain workers’ compensation insurance as required) by not fixing serious safety problems.

One example offered by officials: A manufacturer attempted to hide an entire production line from OSHA inspectors after the agency had received a report from a staffing company that a worker had suffered a finger amputation. Inspectors closed the interior doors, parked forklifts in front of them, turned off the lights and told workers to stay silent. Inspectors discovered this production line anyway, and identified a full row of machinery with exposed parts that put workers at high risk for finger amputations.

In another case, after a worker suffered a serious fall, the employer stalled on reporting for three days while he went out and purchased the fall protection system and then coached workers to say they had been using those systems all along.

If you have been injured at work, contact the Lee Law Offices at 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:

Report of 10,000 severe workplace injuries might only be half the problem, March 18, 2016, By Joe Davidson, The Washington Post

More Blog Entries:

IHSI Report: Carolina Work Safety Improves Slightly, March 21, 2016, Asheville Workers’ Compensation Attorney Blog

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