Occupational Safety & Health:

Assuring Accuracy in Employer Injury and Illness Records

HRD-89-23: Published: Dec 30, 1988. Publicly Released: Dec 30, 1988.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO assessed the accuracy of employers' occupational injury and illness records and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) efforts to ensure accurate recordkeeping.

GAO found that: (1) there was significant occupational safety and health underreporting to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) by employers nationwide; (2) two studies indicated that about 23 percent of work sites visited underrecorded injuries and illnesses, while another study showed that about one-half of 40 chemical industry employers failed to completely record injuries or illness in their logs; (3) inaccurate recordkeeping occurred because many employers either deliberately underrecorded injuries in response to incentives or were unaware of what they should record; and (4) many employers assigned low priority to recordkeeping, which sometimes led to inaccurate and outdated records. GAO also found that OSHA: (1) increased its fines for recordkeeping violations and assessed about $10 million in initial penalties against 65 employers for significant recordkeeping violations; and (2) modified its records review procedures to reduce its reliance on employer logs. GAO believes that OSHA actions to correct inaccurate recordkeeping problems will improve the effectiveness of its inspection process.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: BLS conducts a census of fatal occupational injuries, using diverse state and federal data sources to identify, verify, and profile each workplace fatality. Information is obtained by cross-referencing source documents, such as death certificates, workers' compensation records, and reports to federal and state agencies. This is the fourth year that the fatality census has been conducted in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The second part of the recommendation is no longer applicable to BLS; since 1990, OSHA's Office of Statistics has been responsible for developing guidelines for employers to record and report workplace injuries and illnesses and for ensuring that the guidelines are clear and understandable to users.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Labor should require BLS to: (1) conduct studies that assess the accuracy of employer injury records by comparing those records with independent data sources; and (2) systematically evaluate how well employers understand the revised guidelines for recording and reporting work-related injuries and illnesses to BLS.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In March 1993, OSHA issued a draft directive--replacing its 1987 directive, which was too labor-intensive--to improve the accuracy of employers' records at the worksite. The directive consists of: (1) an outreach and information program to inform employers of their responsibilities and assist them in recording cases; (2) a mechanism that allows records verification through employee interviews and inspector reviews of additional site-specific information; and (3) enforcement of the recordkeeping requirements during OSHA inspections. OSHA issued the final directive in fiscal year 1995.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Labor should direct OSHA to use the procedures developed in the Recordkeeping Audit Program in selected enforcement activities.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor


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