When you work in a manufacturing facility, personal safety is on the top of your mind. Moreover, you would think that with all the alarms, warning lights and guards in place on the equipment, that you are working in as safe an environment as is possible under the circumstances. Unfortunately, many employees find themselves in a different situation.
The new OSHA reporting rule: what happened?
Beginning in January of 2015, all companies were required to immediately report to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) any severe injuries, such as amputations or an incident that resulted in hospitalization.
At the end of the first full reporting year, OSHA discovered that some employers embraced the new regulations, sharing their safety problems with the agency and making changes to the environment as needed, while others went to lengths to hide injuries.
Failure to report: innocence or intent?
Why would a company refuse to report an incident? For some, there is a perception that governmental agencies interfere in the productive and profitable operation of business in the interest of bureaucracy; that the costs of fixing safety hazards on the manufacturing floor would actually cost more than paying for any injuries resulting from the problem.
However, repeated studies over decades have proven that, while the installation of additional guards and warning systems may require a significant initial investment, it is far less expensive than medical costs, legal settlements, lost work time, lower productivity and high employee turnover rates that result from an unsafe work environment. Not to mention that a business that values its workers is far more likely to enjoy a positive public reputation, in turn, improving its sales and profits.
The comment above is not to say that a failure to report a severe injury to OSHA was a result of disdain for regulation or employee safety. Some employers may have been unaware of the change in policy, and others may have addressed the problem using their own initiative while supporting the employee through their recovery.
What are your rights as a worker?
When you work in a factory setting, it is your right and expectation that your employer has done everything they can to provide you and your co-workers a safe station. Should you have any concerns, open communication with the company safety officer is important.
Do not hesitate to point out potential safety issues with your supervisor. Should you encounter a disinterested or unresponsive manager regarding safety concerns, you are within your rights to bring the problem to the attention of those higher up within in the company or even report a problem to OSHA or your state department of public safety before injuries occur.
Avoiding all injuries is the goal, but as OSHA statistics show, we have a long way to go before achieving it. In the meantime, another important right to remember is your right to workers' compensation benefits after an injury. Never fear enforcing this right or fail to get the legal assistance to help make sure you maximize those benefits.