According to the latest safety reports, workplace injuries are on the decline in our country.
Great! Only… it’s untrue.
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Why? Because many burns, cuts, poisonings, and other on-the-job injuries are deliberately hidden from Americas Occupational Safety and Health Agency. Last November, for example, the U.S. Government Accountability Office found widespread underreporting of the problem by company doctors and other health professionals. In a survey of 504 medical practitioners, more than half told investigators that they were pressured by bosses to downplay illnesses and injuries. More than a third said they were actually asked to provide insufficient treatment to workers, so injuries would not have to be reported. And more than two-thirds knew of workers themselves who didn’t want their bosses to know of their injuries, because the workers feared they’d be fired.
Under OSHA rules, any injury that requires more medical treatment than first aid must be registered in a company’s “injury log.” A high injury rate increases the company’s worker compensation costs and can prevent it from qualifying for government contracts. So top executives pressure managers and company doctors, to treat serious injuries with band aids instead of stitches, in order to keep them from being entered in the log.
Also – get this – corporate injury reports are based on the honor system! And, from Wall Street to BP, we’ve seen how much honor there is in CorporateWorld. While OSHA does conduct occasional audits of injury rates, workers themselves are rarely interviewed, leaving it up to corporate executives to tell the truth about the real danger level. That exists in their workplaces.
And of course, executives are not hot to do that! Every workplace can and should be made safe. But they won’t be without honest reporting of conditions, followed by real punishment of violators.
“Doctors urged to downplay work injuries, agency finds,” Austin American Statesman, November 17, 2009.