The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, on March 17, published the results from the inaugural year of its Severe Injury Reporting Program. In 2015, employers reported approximately 10,388 severe workplace injuries, including more than 7,000 hospitalizations and over 2,000 amputations.
In Sept. 2014, OSHA announced it would start requiring employers to report workplace injuries resulting in hospitalization within 24 hours. Additionally, businesses are now required to report fatalities within eight hours. The rule change took effect in January of last year.
According to the agency, its rigorous new reporting system has already had an immense affect.
“In case after case, the prompt reporting of worker injuries has created opportunities for us to work with employers we wouldn’t have had contact with otherwise,” Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for OSHA, said in an interview with EHS Today. “The result is safer workplaces for thousands of workers.”
Construction companies and contractors submitted the most severe injury reports with 734. Manufacturing companies reported the most amputations and hospitalizations.
Additionally, 6 percent of all injury reports involved temporary workers. In recent years, many organizations have turned to temps in the face of rising labor costs. According to the Department of Commerce, stateside companies employ 2.9 million of these workers who make up about 2.4 percent of the entire U.S. labor force.
Unfortunately, many temporary employees are subject to substandard working conditions. Often times, these problems stem from confusion over which entity – the temporary agency or the business – is truly responsible for the well-being of temporary workers. In its report, OSHA clarified that businesses are responsible for the day-to-day management of temporary employees, including training and injury reporting.
Inspectors responded to 30 percent of the severe injuries detailed in the report. Michaels expressed disappointment in this data point and attributed it to OSHA’s limited manpower, reported the Chicago Tribune. The agency employs around 2,500 inspectors but oversees 7 or 8 million businesses.
In most cases, OSHA actually asked employers to inspect incidents of workplace injuries themselves. Some businesses performed thorough investigations and promptly improved working conditions. However, other employers attempted cover-ups. The report mentions one instance in which a business attempted to hide dangerous machinery from on-the-ground OSHA inspectors.
The report revealed other structural issues with the Severe Injury Reporting Program. Data from employers in states with independent work-safety monitoring organizations was not included in the report. As a result, OSHA officials believe the totals may be off.
Despite these flaws, Michaels believes the reporting system is quite effective and will only improve over time.
“OSHA will continue to evaluate the program and make changes to improve its effectiveness,” he wrote in the report. “We are also seeking new ways to make sure that small employers know about their reporting obligations and the resources available to them.”