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Colorado OSHA Plans Increased Enforcement

Posted by Tamara

Colorado employers who have established a workplace safety plan and have few accidents reported are usually considered to be doing a good job.

Recently, however, several university studies discovered that companies were incorrectly reporting fewer accidents in the workplace. Workplace safety plans, ironically, may be contributing to the problem.

Having a workplace safety plan and rewarding employees for lower injury rates can be a positive thing. It can also create an environment for underreporting. If a safety plan offers financial incentives to supervisors and managers for low accident rates, employees could be encouraged not to report accidents, or even threatened if they do report a legitimate accident.

Workplace safety plans that offer incentives that are too large, or set goals that are impossible to reach, can also contribute to underreporting.

In the past, OSHA did not inspect companies that reported no days of work lost, employees on light duty or employees transferred due to a work-related accident. This was another scenario which encouraged underreporting.

Often in these situations the accidents are minor, requiring only basic first aid and little to no time lost from work. Unfortunately, these accidents can also be serious, and still not get reported.

These situations are about to change. In 2009, OSHA launched the National Emphasis Program on Recordkeeping (NEP). The program, via a recently issued OSHA memo requiring local offices to implement more inspections, will crack down on employers who underreport accidents in the workplace. The action specifically targets factories and companies with many workers at one site, who report much lower injury rates than their competitors.

With this program, an employer who reports a few accidents during the year, with a few days of work lost or an employee on light duty, will actually be subject to fewer inspections and less scrutiny than one with a near-perfect safety record. Companies who were not previously inspected will be inspected the same was as all other companies.

The NEP will continue through 2012 and focus on companies that reported few or no accidents in 2008 and 2009.

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