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OIG: Employers underreporting severe workplace injuries

Workers in Pennsylvania may face more risks on the job than is immediately apparent when looking at published statistics and reports. The Department of Labor's Office of the Inspector General (OIG) found that employers have underreported workplace injuries and even fatalities on the job. In 2014, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) enacted a rule to strengthen requirements for correct employer reporting about serious workplace incidents, including accidents, illnesses and fatalities. Still, the OIG found that OSHA data continues to be deficient as does its information indicating that employers have addressed the issues that caused the incidents.

Before the 2014 update, OSHA required companies to report all work-related fatalities as well as inpatient hospitalizations affecting at least three workers. After the updates, however, employers also were required to report all inpatient hospitalizations related to work within 24 hours as well as amputations or losses of an eye. According to OSHA, employers reported 4,185 workplace deaths and 23,282 severe injuries on the job from 2015 through April 2017. After the incidents, OSHA carried out 10,475 inspections and employers undertook 14,834 investigations to delve into the causes of the accidents.

However, the OIG found that these figures most likely reflect underreporting. One March 2016 report indicates that in 2015, the first year of the revised reporting rule, employers may have failed to report up to half of all the severe injuries suffered on the job. The agency also found that state workers' compensation statistics repeatedly uncovered unreported severe injuries; in one state, 50 percent of serious injuries were never reported by the employer.

Workers who are injured on the job can face lengthy rehabilitation periods or even be unable to return to their workplaces. A workers' compensation lawyer might be able to help injured workers to protect their rights, hold safety violators accountable and receive the benefits they deserve.

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