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Report finds decrease in injuries/illnesses

WASHINGTON — Both the rate and the number of non-fatal occupational injuries and illnesses requiring days away from work in private industry decreased 7 percent from 2007 to 2008, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

The rate decreased to 113 per 10,000 full time workers and the number of cases decreased by 80,730. There were 1.1 million cases requiring days away from work in private industry out of 3.7 million total recordable cases as reported by the BLS Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses. Median days away from work, a key measure of severity of the injuries and illnesses, increased for the first time in four years to eight days in 2008.

These figures need qualification. In mid-November, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) received the Government Accountability Office’s (GAO’s) report on the under-reporting of workplace injuries and illnesses and OSHA’s audit process.

The report identified a number of factors that may contribute to the inaccuracy of employer injury and illness records, as well as problems with the audits that OSHA conducts to ensure their accuracy.

The report identified worker intimidation as well as a number of disincentives that may discourage workers and employers from reporting work-related injuries and illnesses. The report also noted widespread reports from occupational health practitioners who were pressured not to record an injury or illness.

Acting Assistant Secretary for OSHA Jordan Barab announced that the agency would move swiftly to implement the recommendations made by the GAO.

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