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OIG: work-related injuries underreported by OSHA

An audit report from the Department of Labor's Office of Inspector General states that OSHA may be underreporting severe and fatal workplace injuries by 50 percent or more. Employees in Louisiana may know that OSHA made changes to its injury and illness recordkeeping rule, which went into effect back in January 2015. Despite these changes, OSHA is inconsistent in issuing citations against employers who report an injury late, the OIG continues.

The report, which was released on Sept. 13, also calls attention to a lack of guidance and training among OSHA staff members when it comes to detecting and identifying underreporting. It points out that OSHA has limited assurance that employers have corrected hazards and that this could be due to OSHA not having enough information to aid in enforcement and compliance assistance.

The OIG recommends, among other things, that the safety organization train staff on how to identify underreporting and that it consistently issue citations. OSHA should also clarify the procedures for ensuring that employers have corrected hazards and for monitoring inspections directed by the employers.

OSHA responded to every recommendation and stated that some employers cannot have a citation issued against them because their failure to report is discovered after the six-month statute of limitations has expired. The agency also expressed concern over the OIG's suggestion that ensuring reporting is OSHA's responsibility rather than the employer's.

When a worker is responsible for their own injuries, they may still be able to file a workers' compensation claim and be covered for a portion of lost wages and medical expenses. Because a claim can be denied, a victim might want a lawyer by their side to help with the case and mount an appeal as a last resort.

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