Discouraging Workers from Reporting Injuries Is Bad Business
One of the negative outcomes of a dogmatic Zero Harm approach is the reluctance, at all levels in the organisation, to report injuries. See ZERO HARM DEBATE
Bill Sims, in his article: Injury Hiding – How do you stop it, answers the question: “I’ve inherited a safety incentive program that rewards people for lagging indicators and I’m worried there maybe injury hiding?”
This the latest blog article by Phil LaDuke: Discouraging Workers from Reporting Injuries Is Bad Business
Phil says: Do your policies and incentives create a climate antagonistic to injury reporting? And if so, how much do you have to discourage workers before you are committing a crime? In this week’s post I take a hard look at OSHA’s increasing tendency to fine companies who have systems, cultures, and policies in place that actively or passively encourage people to conceal workplace injuries. I hope you will give it a read and tell me what you think.
Under-reporting injuries is a poor business practice bordering on criminal behavior. Nowhere was this better evidence than when the U.S. government leveed a whopping $70 million fine on Honda of America for doing just that. In what The New York Times describes as a “sharp escalation of penalties against automakers that skirt safety laws” Honda Fined for Violations of Safety Law, Honda was fined for not reporting consumer injuries and deaths caused by quality defects and for not reporting the defects themselves. Last year, General Motors faced similar sanctions.
It’s worth noting that neither company has been accused (at least formally) of underreporting worker injuries, but is that such a stretch? General Motors has consistently reported one of the best safety records in industry and Honda of America hasn’t made OSHA’s radar since 1999 when one of its contractors were fined over $1 million for machine guarding issues.
All that having been said, is it a stretch to believe that companies that deliberately lie to and one branch of the government (the Department of Transportation) about public safety might not also lie to another branch of the government (OSHA) about the safety of its workers? How confidant are you that companies that do not report one set of data (in this case public deaths and defect claims) that is publicly available and can easily be discovered will willingly and openly and accurately report injuries that happen under the shroud of company secrecy? We talk a lot about indicators in this business and to me there is a strong correlation between cooking one set of books and the likelihood that another set of books is equally cooked.
Rumor has it that underreporting is an area of increasing concern among OSHA inspectors and that companies can expect stricter penalties for underreporting.
Underreporting potentially poses a much more serious threat to worker safety than injuries themselves. When a worker is injured it provides the company with irrefutable evidence that safety is not present in the workplace, assuming you define, as most persist in doing, safety as the absence of injuries. As horrible as it is to have workplace injuries the silver lining is that a heretofore-unknown hazard is revealed and can be rectified; not so if the injury goes unreported and unknown.
Companies need not hatch any insidious plot to conceal injuries in most cases thirty years or more of hackneyed incentive programs and half-baked schemes from safety pundits have created a culture where injuries are taboo and only those injuries that cannot be manipulated via case management are reported.
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