Work-related Injuries Widely Underreported

Work-related Injuries Widely Underreported

New evidence suggests that work related injuries are significantly unreported in the United States. Experts claim that accurate figures on work related injuries could reshape public perception and government policies on workplace safety.

Michigan State University researchers examined data compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), whose annual surveys cover the rates of work related injuries and illness in about 230,000 employees. Through this recent workplace injury research, it appears that approximately one-third of all work-related injuries are actually included in government statistics.

This means that safety data does not account for most of the non-fatal injuries or illnesses suffered by American employees.

According to the Michigan study, which examined BLS-reported work-related injuries in the state from 1999 to 2001, over 869,000 work-related injuries occurred annually though the BLS only reported about 281,500 each of those years.

Experts believe that adequate reporting of work-related injuries would change the way policies are made by government agencies overseeing workplace safety.

“If it's not accurate, how do you know where to put your resources and if your interventions are effective?” asks Kenneth Rosenbaum, author of the study and professor of medicine at Michigan State University. He reports that the BLS misses 75 percent of all work-related injuries due to employer under-reporting.

Researchers believe that gaps in reporting are largely because both employers and employees have incentives to under-report work-related injuries. Additionally, the BLS' statistics don't include instances of work-related injuries to government workers, self-employed people, and employees on farms with a workforce of less than 11 people.

Labor groups question government claims that work-related injuries are in decline. “The problems with reporting are so significant that it is really hard to get a handle on what is indeed going on with respect to workplace injuries,” notes Margaret Seminario, AFL-CIO's director of safety and health.

Other experts believe that the total cost of occupational injuries that cause workers to miss six or more consecutive days of work is about $170 billion annually, while major insurance groups have under-estimated that total to be $50.8 billion a year.

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