The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics recently reported that the rate of employer-reported occupational injuries and illness continued to decline in 2015. According to the report, there were about 2.9 million workplace injuries and illnesses reported by private sector employers — down approximately 48,000 from 2014. With about three reported cases per 100 workers, the rate was lower than it had been since 2002. Aside from 2012, the pattern of decline has been steady for the past 13 years. According to Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA David Michaels, however, the numbers are still too high.
Are Workplace Injuries and Illnesses Really Declining?
It is important to remember that the key words in the report are “employer-reported”. While the statistics show that the number of on-the-job injuries and illness has dropped, there is some concern over what the actual numbers may be.
Workers and employers alike hope that the reported rate of workplace illness and injury is at least partially indicative of the truth. An experienced Chicago workers compensation attorney who deals with employee injury cases nearly every day, however, is likely to be more skeptical of the statistics.
Despite the recent changes in workplace injury reporting regulations, OSHA estimates that at least 50 percent of injuries and illnesses still go unreported. Although the new requirements have been in effect for more than a year, many small and mid-sized employers are unwilling to comply with the guidelines, or are unaware that they exist. Additionally, some workers are reluctant to report on-the-job injuries and illnesses because they are afraid of retaliation.
Improving Workplace Injury Reporting
OSHA has recently taken necessary steps to encourage workers and employers to report workplace injuries and illnesses more accurately.
- To enforce the reporting of occupational injuries and illnesses by employers, OSHA is becoming more likely to cite those who are non-compliant.
- The fines for failing to report have increased significantly. Non-compliant employers can now face a penalty of up to $7,000. And if it is determined that employer was aware of the requirements and still failed to comply, the fines can be much more.
- Anti-retaliation provisions regarding safety incentives and drug testing are currently in place to protect injured workers and encourage them to come forward.
Each day, approximately 30 severe occupational injuries are reported to OSHA. Even if the rate of injuries really is declining, too many Americans are still being exposed to workplace hazards.