Updated September 5, 2019
There’s an important new number in workplace safety: 10,388. That’s the number of workers who suffered serious work injuries in the United States during 2015.
The number was captured largely due to new record keeping and reporting requirements put in place by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the agency directly responsible for workplace safety. Frustrated by a system that often led to safety improvements only after a fatal accident had already happened, OSHA changed the system with the hope that it will prevent worker injuries and deaths by identifying workplace hazards sooner.
At the start of 2015, OSHA implemented new rules requiring stricter reporting of workplace injuries. With this record keeping change, the types and severity of injuries that must be reported to OSHA have been expanded.
In the past, employers were only required to report workplace fatalities and on-the-job incidents that caused serious injury to three or more workers at the same time. Since January 1, 2015, employers now need to report when even a single worker is injured seriously enough to be sent to the hospital as well as all injuries that result in the loss of an eye or an amputation (even part of a fingertip).
The report for 2015 includes detailed descriptions of several harrowing incidents of worker injury. But it also finds the silver lining, showing how reporting a serious injury to one worker can lead to a change in procedures or equipment that prevents injury to others.
One case documents how a tanker driver in Idaho lost a fingertip to a valve cover that was already known to be a problem. Afterward, the employer not only created a tool that let workers operate the valve from a distance but also alerted the manufacturer and others using that valve to the problem and its solution. In another case, a serious arm injury of a Chicago worker led to the installation of improved safety guards as well as a system that sounds an alarm and forces a delay in the machine’s startup to give workers extra time and warning to get clear.
OSHA believes that the total number of serious workplace injuries is at least twice as high as that reported for 2015. When the agency compared the injuries reported directly against claims filed with the states by injured workers, it found that the numbers didn’t align. Much of the discrepancy is suspected to be in the reporting done by small- and medium-sized employers, who may not yet have gotten the message about the new requirements. OSHA is planning an outreach and education campaign to improve awareness in that section of employers.
But the agency knows that some employers are deliberately failing to report, so OSHA is also stepping up enforcement efforts and increasing penalties. The fine on employers who fail to report recently jumped from $1,000 per incident to $7,000, and there are plans to raise it again soon. If it can be proven that the employer already knew about the reporting requirements and avoided them, OSHA can tack on additional fines.
Workplace injuries and illnesses harm more than three million American workers every year. Most of these injuries are preventable. When someone suffers an injury in the workplace, a worker and their family members are often entitled to compensation for injuries, the recovery of lost wages, and other damages. Proving that an injury was caused by negligence or some other preventable factor can be complex, even when the details are clear-cut. It helps to have a knowledgeable attorney on your side.
If you or a loved one have been injured as a result of an on-the-job accident, you are urged to contact the Indianapolis Workplace Accident Attorneys of Wilson Kehoe Winingham. The lawyers at WKW can help you get the compensation you deserve. Call 317.920.6400 or fill out an online contact form for a free, no-obligation case evaluation.
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