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DOL audit suggests workplace injuries often go unreported

After conducting an audit of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's workplace accident reporting process, the Department of Labor's Office of Inspector General concluded that severe on-the-job injuries may go unreported half of the time. OSHA introduced stringent new reporting standards in January 2015, but the OIG audit suggests that many employers in Connecticut and around the country either do not know what kinds of injuries they are required to report or ignore the rules.

Workplace safety advocates say that many employers choose to flout OSHA reporting regulations because they would rather pay a $5,000 fine. OSHA often conducts thorough inspections following an on-the-job accident that resulted in serious injury or death, which could uncover safety violations and lead to even stiffer sanctions. Employers around the country reported 23,282 severe injuries to OSHA in 2017, but a senior figure at the agency said that the true number could be more than twice as high.

According to experts, reducing workplace injuries requires a coordinated effort that is designed to address operational shortcomings rather than modify worker behavior. Proper reporting protocols should be put into place, and managers, supervisors and workers should work together to find the root causes of safety problems. Employers should also conduct regular safety inspections to ensure that preventative or corrective measures are being implemented.

Workers who are injured while on the job generally submit workers' compensation claims, but attorneys with experience in this area may suggest filing a personal injury lawsuit against their employers in certain situations. While one of the goals of workers' compensation programs is to prevent this kind of litigation, exceptions are made in cases involving gross negligence. This is behavior so reckless that it makes serious injury inevitable. Attorneys could argue that employers with acted gross negligence when OSHA regulations and reporting requirements were ignored to avoid official scrutiny.

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