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Hiding Worker Injuries

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According to the latest safety reports, workplace injuries are on the decline in our country. Great! Only … it’s untrue.

Many burns, cuts, poisonings, and other on-the-job injuries are deliberately hidden from the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Last November, the Government Accountability Office found widespread underreporting of injuries by company doctors and other health professionals. In a survey of 504 medical practitioners, more than half told investigators they had been pressured by bosses to downplay illnesses and injuries. More than one-third said they were asked to provide insufficient treatment to workers so injuries would not have to be reported. More than two-thirds knew of workers who didn’t want bosses to know about injuries because the workers feared they’d be fired.

Under OSHA rules, any injury that requires more medical treatment than first aid must be registered in a company’s “injury log.” A high injury rate increases the company’s worker compensation costs and can prevent it from qualifying for government contracts. So top executives pressure managers and company doctors to treat serious injuries with bandages instead of stitches.

Also—get this—corporate injury reports are based on the honor system! From Wall Street to BP, we’ve seen how much honor there is in CorporateWorld. While OSHA does conduct occasional audits of injury rates, workers are rarely interviewed, leaving it to corporate executives to tell the truth.

Of course, executives are not hot to do that. Every workplace can and should be made safe. That won’t happen without honest reporting of conditions, followed by real punishment of violators.


Find more information on Jim Hightower’s work–and subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown–at www.jimhightower.com