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USW Welcomes GAO Report on Employer Policies, Programs and Practices that Discourage Workplace Injury Reporting

May 9, 2012

PITTSBURGH, May 9, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The United Steelworkers (USW) today welcomed the release of a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report that underscores the pervasive nature of employer policies, programs and practices that discourage workers from reporting job injuries and illnesses and outlines actions that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) should take to address these practices.

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The report, “Workplace Safety and Health: Better OSHA Guidance Needed on Safety Incentive Programs,” presents the results of a GAO survey of U.S. manufacturing companies that found that 75% of firms had safety incentive programs or other workplace safety policies that can affect workers’ reporting of injuries and illnesses.

“The USW has long warned and campaigned against workplace programs and policies that discourage workers from reporting job injuries,” said USW International President Leo W. Gerard. “Such programs make employers’ injury rates look good while job hazards go unidentified and uncorrected. We’ve seen far too many tragedies and catastrophes in facilities where employers are playing these numbers games.”

The report, released today, builds on a 2009 GAO report on the accuracy of workplace injury and illness data that revealed that more than two-thirds of injured workers fear employer discipline or the loss of their jobs if they reported their injuries. Over half of occupational health practitioners surveyed said that employers pressured them to downplay injuries so that they would not be OSHA recordable, and one-third of occupational health practitioners said that employers pressure them to provide insufficient treatment to workers so that injuries would not meet the threshold for a “recordable injury.”

Today’s GAO report further emphasizes the importance of accurate injury and illness data, noting that OSHA relies heavily on accurate reporting to tailor programs and allocate resources. The GAO recommends that OSHA assess the impacts of safety incentives and other safety and health programs on injury reporting, given their prevalence in today’s workplaces.

“Without accurate data, employers engaged in hazardous activities can avoid inspections and may be allowed to participate in voluntary programs that reward employers with exemplary safety and health management systems by exempting them from routine inspections,” the report contends.

Gerard said that the USW supports the GAO recommendation that OSHA take action to address employer policies, practices and programs that discourage workers from reporting injuries and illnesses and applauds OSHA for its March 2012 “Employer Safety Incentive and Disincentive Policies and Practices” memorandum.

“OSHA has made clear that reporting a work-related injury or illness is a core employee right,” Gerard said, “and retaliating against a worker for reporting an injury or illness is illegal discrimination.”

The memorandum provides guidance to OSHA inspectors and whistleblower investigators on employer practices that discourage employees from reporting injuries and violate whistleblower statutes enforced by OSHA.

Finally, Gerard called on OSHA to move forward swiftly with a regulation that would require employers to implement effective injury and illness prevention programs and outlaw programs that discourage job-related injury and illness reporting.

The USW represents about 850,000 working men and women in the United States and Canada in a wide variety of industries, ranging from glass making to mining, paper, steel, tire and rubber and other manufacturing environments to the public sector, service and health care industries.

More information, contact: Tony Montana, USW – 412-562-2592

SOURCE United Steelworkers (USW)


Source: PR Newswire