The number of reported workplace injuries and ailments decreased in 2009, from 3.9 per every 100 workers to 3.6. The number of cases dropped from 3.7 million to 3.3 million, according to the United States Department of Labor.
While Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis was positive about the decline, she was equally adamant in her assertion that 3.3 million cases of illness and injury were far too many. She also used the opportunity to stress the importance of accurate reporting, an ever-present issue in the workplace.
Without reporting, it is much harder for regulatory officials to step in and take action. For years, less scrupulous employers have either hid this information or made it worth the worker’s while to refrain from reporting dangerous environments or mismanagement.
Add in the fear of retaliation that most whistleblowers carry with them and it’s easy to see how the Department of Labor might struggle to attain an accurate picture of safety on the factory floor, construction site and elsewhere.
Oftentimes, regulatory agencies rely on employee reports to gain the information necessary to confront hazards before a work injury occurs. Take a construction site with dangerous scaffolding. While workers may use the scaffolding for months without injury, the slightest error could end in tragedy – one that might have been avoided.
So, while the drop in reported injuries and instances of illness is a step in the right direction, there is a long road left to travel.