Both employers and workers routinely under-report work-related injuries and illnesses; employers do not report the injuries for fear of increasing workers' compensation costs while workers do not report the accident at work from a fear of being fired or disciplined, or they may even be worried that their co-workers could lose bonuses or rewards as part of safety-based incentive programs. The problem with under-reporting is that it is undermining the health and safety of American workers--as one Senator and chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee noted, "If we don't known the full extent of the workplace....we cannot fully address the risks."
Statistics on Workplace Accidents and Injuries
In 2007, OSHA reported over 4 million work-related injuries, with 5,600 of them being fatalities. OSHA's report also noted that injuries and fatalities in the workplace have declined steadily since 1992, which they attributed to improvements in workplace safety as well as a decline in the number of manufacturing jobs. The problem with these statistics, lies in the fact that many believe that because OSHA relies solely on employer-reported injury and illness data, OSHA may seriously under-report work place injuries. Occupational health practitioners report that they have been pressured by employers to provide insufficient medical treatment or to play-down work related injuries or illnesses.
Reporting a Work-Related Injury
Workers' compensation insurance is specifically designed to provide necessary medical benefits to employees who suffer injuries in the course of their employment. The Employer's First Report of Injury or Illness form is required by the system in all cases when an employee reports an injury in the course of his or her employment. This report MUST be completed as soon as possible after the injury. The employee must report the injury to his supervisor, and then the supervisor will complete the form and send it to Human Resources for further processing. The supervisor has 8 business hours to submit the form and there must be a Supervisor Incident Investigation Report filed within 3 work days. There must be an accompanying witness statement, filled out by a willing employee or supervisor and sent along with the First Report of Injury.
If you require medical treatment for your work-related injury, you should immediately choose a primary doctor to coordinate your care; make sure the doctor knows it is work-related and that he or she will accept Worker's Compensation Insurance. Don't pay for any billing on your own. If you expect to lose time from work as a result of an on-the-job accident, a written doctor's release is required before you will be allowed to return to work. This release will need to specifically indicate any work limitations imposed on you as a result of the injury, such as lifting restrictions. If your return is on a limited or restricted basis, a written schedule of duties and hours should be prepared by your supervisor and signed by both you and the supervisor.
Getting the Legal Help You Need
Worker's Compensation Claims can be complex and frustrating for you, the employee, and often times you may feel pressured by your supervisor or boss to cover up your injury or illness. You need someone to look out for your rights in this matter--an experienced worker's compensation attorney can be your very best line of defense when you have suffered a work-related injury.