The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) received a dismal report card from its parent agency’s investigative arm Sept. 13, faulting it for failing to ensure it receives complete information on work-related deaths and severe injuries, as well as its inconsistency in citing employers that do not file the workplace accident reports required by law.
The Department of Labor’s Office of the Inspector General prefaced its OSHA report – OSHA Needs to Improve the Guidance for Its Fatality and Severe Injury Reporting Program to Better Protect Workers – with a reference to changes the agency made to its reporting requirements that took effect in January 2015.
OSHA’s revised regulations require employers to report all work-related fatalities and certain injuries, inpatient hospitalizations, amputations, and losses of an eye within specific time frames. However, the Office of Inspector General’s report points to OSHA’s former Assistant Secretary that “perhaps 50 percent or more of severe injuries have gone unreported.”
Contributing to the severe underreporting problem is OSHA’s “lack of guidance and training on how to detect and prevent underreporting” in addition to inconsistencies in its issuance of citations to late reporters, the OIG report found.
Additionally, OSHA “had limited assurance employers abated hazards properly,” the report states, leading the OIG to conclude that the agency does not have enough information to properly direct its compliance assistance and enforcement actions.
The OIG recommended that OSHA:
- develop guidance and train staff on identifying underreporting;
- issue citations for all late reporters;
- clarify guidance on documenting essential decisions, collecting evidence to demonstrate employers corrected all identified hazards, and monitoring employer-conducted investigations;
- conduct inspections on all Category 1 incidents.
OSHA disputed and commented on several of the reported findings and recommendations, “but nothing in its response changed our report,” the OIG noted.