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Thursday, December 3,2009

Hiding worker injuries from OSHA

By Jim Hightower

It's painful enough to be injured on the job, but it adds insult to injury when your employer strives to keep your pain a secret from safety authorities.

The failure of corporations to report work-related injuries is not a rare occurrence, says the Government Accountability Office — it is routine. In a review of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s policies, GAO investigators found that some two-thirds of job injuries are simply hidden from the agency, even though the law requires full reporting on injuries that require anything more than first aid.

Why flaunt the law? Because corporate executives, always guarding their own bottom line, know that a record of frequent injuries will increase the company’s worker compensation costs and will hurt its chances of winning government contracts.

Yeah, but why do they get away with it? Several reasons. First — get this — OSHA relies solely on employers to report worker injuries! Inspectors do not interview employees in the workplace to determine if their bosses are being honest about job hazards and injury rates.

Second, managers pressure clinics, doctors and others to limit treatment of a worker’s injury to first aid, thus requiring no report. This cold ploy includes taking the injured person to several medical providers until finding one who’ll certify that first aid is enough. More than half of the medical providers surveyed by GAO said they’d been pressured by corporate officials to play down injuries. Third, workers themselves are intimidated, fearing they’ll be punished or fired for getting a reportable injury.

As long as safety officials take a see-no-evil/hear-no-evil approach, corporate bosses have no incentive besides their own sense of decency to make America’s workplaces safe — and, as the GAO report makes clear, putting our trust in executive decency doesn’t seem to be working out very well for workers.

For more information on Jim Hightower’s work — and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown — visit www.jimhightower.com.
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You must be kidding me Mr. Hightower. Dear readers, just so you know, Mr. Hightower's opinion is NOT indicative of the VAST, and I do mean vast, majority of companies in how they view and react to OSHA. I have been involved in the safety and management of hundreds of organizations and not ONCE have I seen even close to what is described here. How do executives and managers react to an increase in Workers' Comp claims? They attempt to improve their safety programs and educate employees on standard safe work practices. To "shop" an injured employee to a doctor that will treat their injuries as "first-aid" is preposterous. Your story is so slanted, so much in the minority it is outright blasphermy. You have apparently received such a small part of this story that you are ultimately disingenuous in your reporting and slanted opinion. To what advantage is there that you make up a story such as this? Is it to promote the apparently popular opinion that you have and some of your ultra-liberal (head in the sand) readers might have? And that is workers are good and that managers/executives are bad? That is not reality. I wonder what your motivation is. It sure is not portraying an honest portrayal on employer's interaction with OSHA.