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Federal agency concludes worker deaths and injuries underreported


Federal agency concludes worker deaths and injuries underreported

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires employers in South Carolina to report workplace fatalities and severe injuries within 24 hours. When the Office of Inspector General investigated these serious incidents, it determined that deadly and serious workplace accidents were widely underreported.

Investigators looked at fatality and injury data collected from January 2015 through April 2017. They found reports of 23,282 severe injuries and 4,185 deaths. When investigators cross-referenced this information with workers’ compensation claims from multiple states, they identified large discrepancies. Cases documented by insurance claims numbered 25 to 50 percent higher than reports to OSHA. Many smaller companies also appeared unaware of the requirement to report bad accidents.

The report issued by the OIG concluded that OSHA was not aware of the actual number of work-related deaths or serious accidents that required hospitalization or resulted in amputation or eye loss. This lack of information impeded the agency’s ability to inspect severe accidents and take enforcement actions. Officials at OSHA accepted recommendations to increase monitoring and documentation of incidents but warned that the agency lacked the resources to pursue unreported injuries.

Sometimes employers try to hide evidence of workplace hazards by discouraging employees from reporting workplace injuries in the first place. Workers, however, need to make these reports in order to file for workers’ compensation benefits. A person hurt on the job who needs medical care or disability benefits could seek help from an attorney. With legal support, an individual might learn about available insurance coverage for medical treatment and lost pay and submit a claim. A lawyer could challenge an insurer’s attempt to limit benefits by documenting the medical problems and citing the terms of the insurance contract. If a case becomes contentious, an attorney could take the insurer to court.