The Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) report demonstrated the true pervasiveness of workplace policies that discourage employees from reporting on-the-job injuries and illnesses and presents a number of steps that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) should consider in order to eliminate these policies as common practice. The report, entitled Workplace Safety and Health: Better OSHA Guidance Needed on Safety Incentive Programs found that 75 percent of employers have safety incentive programs in place that negatively affect how and when workers report job injuries and illness.
Leo Gerard, a supporter of the GAO recommendations and president of United Steelworkers International, commented that, “The USW has long warned and campaigned against workplace programs and policies that discourage workers from reporting job injuries. 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 builds upon a 2009 GAO report, which found that two-thirds of injured workers avoid reporting their injuries out of fear of reprisal and over half of occupational health workers injured on the job said that they were pressured to play down the extent of their injuries to avoid reports to OSHA.
The report states that, “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 provides recommendations to OSHA inspectors and whistleblower
investigators on addressing inappropriate workplace injury and illness policies and on pushing for the implementation of prevention programs to eliminate such programs if not outlawing them completely.