A worker reports an injury. An investigation shows the injury was caused because the worker ignored a safety rule. Under company policy, the employee is disciplined. Now, other workers aren’t reporting injuries because they don’t want to be disciplined. What do you do?
The question is more important these days because OSHA is cracking down on underreporting of occupational injuries.
A report issued in November by the Government Accountability Office showed some employers underreport injuries to reduce insurance premiums and workers fail to report injuries because they fear being fired.
In the wake of that report, OSHA unleashed a National Emphasis Program on recordkeeping. The targets: companies in high-injury industries that report much lower than average injury rates.
An article in Business Week highlights this current situation.
Example: AK Steel reduced its annual injuries by 96% from 1994 to 2009.
It’s that type of injury improvement that raises the eyebrows of some workplace safety experts. “It is extremely unlikely that injury rates would plummet like this,” said Susan Baker, a scholar of workplace injuries at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
AK Steel had good cause to improve its safety practices: 10 workers died at company plants from 1993 to 1996, leading to a $1.9 million OSHA fine.
But some former AK Steel workers tell Business Week that injuries appear to be down because workers who report them are penalized with time off without pay.
An AK Steel spokesman says, “We make no apologies for our safety program and all of its components, including discipline.” At the same time, the company considers not reporting an injury an “extraordinarily serious offense.”
How do you hold employees responsible for safety rules through discipline, yet make sure you don’t discourage reporting of workplace injuries? Let us know what you think in the Comments Box below.