Under-reporting Injuries Still a Big Challenge for OSHA

An annual review pinpoints OSHA’s biggest challenges as it strives to reduce workplace injuries, illnesses, and fatalities. A law passed in 2000 requires the Office of Inspector General to identify the most serious management and performance challenges facing the U.S. Department of Labor, OSHA’s parent agency. The OIG report says OSHA and its mining industry equivalent, MSHA, face challenges in determining how to best use their limited resources to protect workers’ safety and health, particularly in high-risk industries such as construction, forestry, fishing and mining.

“These challenges are exacerbated by the under-reporting of injuries by employers,” the report stated. Without reliable data regarding workplace injuries, OSHA and MSHA lack the information needed to effectively focus inspection and compliance efforts on the most hazardous workplaces.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t exactly come as a surprise. Numerous reports have shown through the years that occupational injuries and illnesses are significantly under-reported. Verifying abatement of construction hazards also remains a challenge for OSHA, according to the report. The reason? Before verification is possible, OSHA has to close many citations for safety violations because the construction project has ended. OSHA winds up with no assurances that employers with alleged safety violations will use improved practices at subsequent construction sites. This is particularly true for small and medium-sized construction firms.

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