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OIG calls out OSHA for underreporting of workplace injuries

In January 2015, certain changes to OSHA's injury and illness record-keeping rule went into effect. However, according to an audit report from the Department of Labor's Office of Inspector General, OSHA may not be doing enough to keep thorough records of serious and fatal workplace injuries. The audit was released in September 2018 and may be of interest to employers in Pennsylvania.

The OIG estimates that OSHA may have let 50 percent or more injury cases go unreported and that it is inconsistent in the way it issues citations against late reporters. The OIG also points out a lack of training regarding the detection and prevention of underreporting. There may be a lack of resources on OSHA's part that limits its ability to provide enforcement and compliance assistance.

Four recommendations were made in the report: better guidance on identifying under reporting, more consistent issuing of citations against late reporters, clearer guidelines on gathering proof that an employer has correctly abated a hazard and inspections for all Category 1 incidents. OSHA has disputed some of the recommendations.

For instance, OSHA often cannot issue a citation because the failure to report was discovered after the six-month statute of limitations had expired. OSHA also expressed concern over the suggestion that the burden of ensuring reporting lies with its organization rather than with the employer.

When employer negligence is not the cause behind a work-related accident, workers have the option of filing a workers' compensation claim. They must show that their injuries are accident-related and that the accident is work-related. No one's guilt must be established for victims to receive benefits; nevertheless, it might be a good idea to hire a lawyer. A lawyer may be especially helpful in mounting an appeal to get a commutation of compensation for those who qualify.

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