A congressional report found two out of three work-related illnesses and injuries may be going unreported, and called into question federal regulators’ claims that workplace problems are declining.
The House Committee on Education and Labor, which released the report in Washington, D.C., plans a hearing Tuesday, June 24, 2008, focusing on whether the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is adequately enforcing construction safety rules.
The committee is expected to hear questions about recent construction deaths in New York and on the Las Vegas Strip, where officials say 12 workers have died in resort projects since January 2007.
The committee chairman, Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., told the panel on Thursday, June 19, 2008, that workplace injuries and illnesses are “woefully underreported,” and said the report raised concerns about employers failing to report injuries to OSHA.
Businesses with fewer injuries and illnesses are less likely to be inspected by OSHA, according to the report, which said that up to 69 percent of workplace injuries and illnesses may never be reported to the federal agency.
It said employers benefit through lower workers’ compensation insurance premiums and a better chance of winning government contracts and bonuses.
The report drew on academic studies that compared reports filed with federal regulators with other sources, including local police department records, hospital emergency room logs and workers’ compensation records.
June 19’s hearing highlighted recent newspaper reports about North Carolina poultry workers allegedly being intimidated to keep quiet about injuries while a company claimed perfect safety records.
The committee’s ranking Republican, California Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, said the news reports were troubling and warranted further investigation. But he questioned relying on media reports for facts.
McKeon also said employers need clear direction about reporting workplace problems.