andrew schneider investigates

March 5, 2008

OSHA keeps a blind eye toward workplace injuries

An OSHA recordkeeping expert alleges the agency has been “turning its back” on verifying the accuracy of injury and illness records submitted by employers, and claims this has led to significant underreporting during the past 15 years.

According the Occupational Hazard.com, Bob Whitmore, a Department of Labor expert for OSHA recordkeeping litigation since the mid-1980s, said that several companies in the steel mill, shipyard and poultry processing industries � hazardous workplaces by nature � have vastly underreported their injury and illness rates.

The incredulous part about this, Whitmore said, is that OSHA is not doing anything about it.

“It makes absolutely no sense,” he said. “If you work in hazardous industries, see a lot fatalities, but you hardly have recordable cases, it doesn’t ring true.”

Ever since the Bureau of Labor Statistics relinquished its recordkeeping group to OSHA during President George H.W. Bush’s administration in 1990, the agency has used injury and illness logs, which employers are required to submit annually, as a national surveillance tool. The logs are intended to help OSHA know what’s happening in U.S. workplaces in order to direct resources to the places that need help.

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