Under-Reporting of Injuries a Major Challenge for OSHA/MSHA

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OSHA and MSHA face challenges in determining how to best use their resources to help protect the workers’ safety and health, particularly in high-risk industries such as construction, forestry, fishing, agriculture, and mining.

These challenges, as outlined in a report published by DOL in November, are exacerbated by underreporting of injuries by employers. Without reliable data regarding workplace injuries, OSHA and MSHA lack the information needed to effectively focus inspection and compliance efforts on the most hazardous workplaces.

Verifying the abatement of construction hazards remains a challenge for OSHA. The agency closed many citations for safety violations because the construction project ended, not because employers corrected the cited hazards. As a result, OSHA received no assurances employers would use improved safety and health practices at subsequent construction sites.

A recent study published in the American Journal of Public Health concluded that black lung cases are at a 25-year high in Appalachian coal mining states. MSHA is challenged to determine the reasons for this increase and develop strategies for addressing it.

The Agency is currently soliciting comments, data, and information to develop a study to assess the impact of the August 2014 coal dust rule on the health of miners.

However, because of the latency period between exposure to coal dust and the development of black lung disease, it will likely take a decade or more to complete the study. An emerging challenge facing MSHA is reducing the number of powered haulage accidents which accounted for 8 percent of all injuries and 50 percent of all fatalities in 2017.

OIG’s suggestions to MSHA to ensure mine operators are complying with the respirable coal dust rule are to:

  • Review the quality of coal mine dust controls in mine ventilation and dust control plans;
  • Analyze sampling data quarterly;
  • Monitor mine operators’ sampling equipment;
  • Re-evaluate the coal dust rule in light of new information; and
  • Increase testing and enforcement for other airborne contaminants.

OSHA states that it encourages employers to comply with illness and injury reporting requirements through a variety of enforcement, outreach, and compliance assistance efforts.

OSHA has also established a program to develop, implement, and assess the effectiveness of agency internal controls.