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December 3, 2018

Under-reporting injuries still big challenge for OSHA

An annual review pinpoints one of OSHA’s biggest challenges as its 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:

“These challenges are exacerbated by under-reporting of injuries by employers,” the report states. “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. Report after report has 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. 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-size construction firms.

For MSHA, the prevalence of black lung cases among miners is also a challenge. A recent study published in the American Journal of Public Health concluded that black lung cases are at a 25-year high in Appalachian coal mining states.

Another challenge for MSHA: reducing the number of powered haulage incidents which accounted for 8% of all injuries and 50% of all fatalities in 2017. (A power haulage incident is one caused by the motion of the haulage unit, including ones that are caused by an energized or moving unit or failure of component parts.)

How can OSHA make sure injuries and illnesses aren’t under-reported? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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