Safety and OSHA News

Safety stats: 90% mistakenly believe they’re tracking this correctly

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Something must be wrong here: A new study says only 10% of companies surveyed are tracking a key safety statistic correctly. 

The study by the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) says 90% of companies surveyed didn’t completely comply with OSHA injury recordkeeping regulations.

L&I interviewed 110 companies regarding their 2008 injury and illness data; 97 companies maintained OSHA records. The researchers looked at four aspects of OSHA injury recordkeeping:

  • what was recorded on the OSHA log
  • when cases were recorded
  • how the company classified cases (those with days away from work – DAFW – or those with job transfer or restriction only – DJTR), and
  • whether the company recorded temporary worker injuries on the OSHA log.

Nine out of ten of the companies in the study got at least one area wrong.

The researchers compared what was recorded on the OSHA logs to workers’ compensation claim data.

What did they get wrong?

  • Some respondents recorded all workers’ comp claims on the OSHA logs instead of only those that met OSHA case definitions
  • Others recorded all injuries regardless of severity (there was actually some over-reporting)
  • Some recorded all injuries that result in a medical visit regardless of whether the healthcare services provided to the injured worker met the OSHA definition of medical treatment
  • 20% got the DAFW/DJTR classification wrong, and
  • Nearly half of the 53 companies using workers from temporary agencies incorrectly said they wouldn’t include the temps’ injuries on their own OSHA logs.

Why did they get it wrong?

  • Even though they are defined differently, companies equated workers’ comp cases with OSHA recordability
  • Sometimes OSHA forms weren’t completed until workers’ comp paperwork was received or until a claim ruling was made, throwing off the timing of the injury reports
  • Companies erroneously believed the responsibility for recording injuries for temporary workers was based on who was liable for the claim
  • Absent or disorganized recordkeeping resulted in using other records such as those from workers’ comp claims to complete the forms
  • Communication breakdown between the injured worker and the person responsible for injury records, especially at companies where there is more than one shift, and
  • Companies used injury data as a measure of job performance for supervisors, incentivizing them to under-report.

To improve compliance with recordkeeping regulations, the researchers suggest:

  • OSHA should increase outreach and improve the training it provides, especially regarding injuries among temporary workers
  • OSHA should consider revising forms and the instructions that come along with them
  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) should work to improve communication with companies
  • Companies should address contact and transfer of injury information among several parties: the injured worker, the person in charge of injury recordkeeping, healthcare providers and BLS data collection staff, and
  • Regulators should provide companies with an incentive to report the most accurate injury information possible, such as avoiding fines for inaccurate reports (there are no penalties for inaccurate responses currently).

This study was published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine. It’s the first such study since OSHA revised its injury reporting regulation in 2002.

What do you think about the study and its recommendations? Do you feel the current instructions for OSHA injury reporting are clear? Let us know in the comments.

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