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New OSHA Leadership in the Hot Seat, Critics Cannot Agree on Injury Reporting

In the past few years, the leadership at the Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration, known more commonly as OSHA, has been completely revamped. The Obama administration brought in completely new officials to run the agency and focus on the issue of companies that violate workplace injury reporting rules.

The new administration recently cited AK Steel Corp., an Ohio-based company, $53,000 in fines for five counts of “willful” violation of the injury reporting rules. The company allegedly failed to report a number of workplace injuries, intimidation of employees and programs that encouraged workers not to report injuries to their supervisors. The alleged violations hid the actual number of injuries allowing unearned grants of safety awards.

The Ohio steel plant was not the only company cited by the new OSHA administration. The agency cited several companies for violations with fines ranging from several thousand dollars to several million, and yet some critics argue that the alleged underreporting problem does not exist at the level claimed by safety advocates.

The OSHA agency has been accused of sitting on their hands and not doing enough to fix the problem while at the same time being accused of “making a big deal” out of a problem that does not really exist. Others argue that data collection has simply been the issue. They claim that an accurate picture cannot be made until enough effort is placed on collecting better data about actual injuries. One head of the California division explained the dilemma by saying “At a certain point, you ask the question, ‘Is it better to spend time and resources gathering the information, or inspecting high-risk areas?”

Source: Fair Warning “Targeting Bogus Injury Records, OSHA Takes Heat from All Sides” Stuart Silverstein 11/4/10