Report faults OSHA safety checks

Associated Press / November 17, 2009

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WASHINGTON - Labor Secretary Hilda Solis said yesterday she will move swiftly to correct problems highlighted in a new report on workplace safety that raises concerns about widespread underreporting of injuries and illnesses on the job.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is supposed to audit employer records in the most hazardous industries to keep tabs on accident and illness rates. But inspectors often don’t interview workers to verify what is in employer records, the Government Accountability Office report found.

The report said OSHA should not rely solely on employer data because there is evidence some companies pressure workers not to report injuries or illnesses. And about one-third of health providers surveyed by the GAO said they have been pressured to withhold medical treatment so a company could avoid filing an injury or illness report. “Many of the problems identified in the report are quite alarming, and OSHA will be taking strong enforcement action where we find underreporting,’’ Solis said.

Democratic lawmakers requested the report because they are skeptical of numbers that have shown the rate of workplace injuries and illnesses declining.