10,000 Severe Workplace Injuries Only Half the Problem

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), March 19, 2016 | Go to article overview

10,000 Severe Workplace Injuries Only Half the Problem


Byline: Joe Davidson Washington Post

WASHINGTON -- Next time you order sliced turkey or ham at a supermarket or restaurant, make sure you also don't get the butcher's fingertip.

Shortly after a federal rule requiring employers to report severe work related injuries, Labor Department staffers in the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) Atlanta office noticed a disturbing and surprising trend -- "numerous reports of fingertip amputations among workers using food slicers."

That's one finding in an OSHA document released Thursday about the 10,388 severe work-related injuries reported in 2015, the first full year of a federal reporting requirement. Injuries resulting in eye loss, amputation or hospitalization must be reported within 24 hours. Included were 2,644 amputations and 7,636 hospitalizations.

Employers were already required to report fatalities within eight hours.

Until the severe injury reporting requirement, OSHA officials didn't have a full grasp of the situation. "Too often, we would investigate a fatal injury only to find a history of serious injuries at the same workplace," the report says. "Each of those injuries was a wake-up call for safety that went unheeded."

Even with the new requirement, officials still don't have a complete accounting of severe injuries. OSHA knows the reported number is an under-count.

"We think the actual number might be twice as high," Assistant Secretary of Labor David Michaels said by telephone.

Here is some of what OSHA said the reporting requirement revealed:

While these examples are from the private sector, the U.S. Postal Service also ranks high on the list, number five out of 25, of industry groups reporting severe injuries. …

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