According to a report by the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on
Education and Labor, a staggering 69 percent of all workplace injuries and
illnesses may not be represented in the Bureau of Labor and Statistics
Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses, which many trust as a gauge
of the safety of American workplaces. On a corporate level, not reporting
or under-reporting workplace injuries can have serious ramifications for the
organization and the employer, which can include fines, exorbitant and
unnecessary, health costs and more.
Research has found that the employer’s behavior, policies and attitude are
key determinants in a worker’s decision to report an injury. Not only is it
essential that employees are educated on the importance of reporting
injuries, it is also important to examine your company policies so you are
not inadvertently discouraging reporting. The consequences of
under-reporting can be severe.
Consequences of Under-reporting
The unfortunate trend of injury under-reporting can have serious
ramifications at both the industry and company level. Widespread
under-reporting can be quite damaging to workers’ compensation rates on a
large scale. Employers may not realize it, but such an under-reporting
problem may lead to more audits by insurance companies of their clients and
higher rates for everyone. Many employers erroneously believe that
reporting injuries leads to audits and higher rates.
At the company level, under-reporting injuries can be quite costly for the
employer. If it is an OSHA-reportable incident, the employer may face
significant fines if it is not properly recorded or reported.
In addition, often when an injury isn’t reported or properly cared for
immediately, it worsens and leads to higher health care costs and more lost
time. Even if it is never reported as a workplace injury, the employer
still loses out on health care costs and productivity. If it is eventually
reported, it becomes much more difficult to prove that it was
workplace-related. Additionally, a study reported by the Hartford Financial
Services Group found that injuries reported four or five weeks after the
incident are 45 percent more expensive than injuries reported within the
first week due to increased health costs and possible legal fees, or even a
lawsuit, associated with late reporting.
One of the best ways to control workers’ compensation costs is through
early reporting and intervention. Not only will it save money in health
bills and legal fees, but it will also help to constantly improve your
safety program. When there is an injury, consider it an opportunity to
examine current safety procedures and decide if there is a suitable change
that could be made to prevent similar injuries in the future. Thus, prompt
reporting can be a productive element to your safety program in your quest
to always strive for the safest work environment. Rather than accepting a
vicious circle where injuries are not reported and thus nothing is done to
fix the problem, leading to more injuries, take advantage of injury
reporting as a proactive solution to safety.
Reasons for Under-reporting
There are several reasons why employees may not report injuries immediately
or at all.
Many employers have reward or incentive programs to promote their safety
initiatives, such as rewards for going a certain number of days without an
injury. This can create a negative attitude toward reporting an injury,
since doing so could cost that employee, a co-worker or a superior a reward
Having incentive programs are a good idea, but a more effective strategy is
to reward positive, safe behaviors. This can include reporting a safety
hazard, attending a safety meeting or training class or equipment
maintenance. Rather than rewarding for days without an injury, reward
behaviors that strive to avoid injury, or even reward employees for prompt
reporting when an injury occurs.
Fear of negative ramifications:
Some employees fear that reporting an injury will create an image of them
as weak to their co-workers and managers. He or she also may fear that such
an image will be a detriment to his or her career.
Dispel this fear by assuring all employees that reporting an injury will
have no negative impact on their job, and ensure follow through on all
levels of the company. Work to promote a safety culture where prompt injury
reporting is encouraged and praised. Injury reporting should never be
frowned upon, even subtly or behind closed doors. If employees find out you
are angry about a reported injury, he or she is less likely to report an
injury in the future.
Some companies have a policy mandating drug testing after any incident
whether or not there is evidence of drug use. This deters some employees
from reporting injuries as well. Consider making the drug testing
conditional depending on the circumstances of the injury and whether there
is evidence that drug use was a factor.
For more information about injury reporting or your company’s workers’
compensation and safety programs, please contact Robertson Insurance & Risk Management Insurance at 717-625-3770 today.