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Why workers do not report injuries

The results of a recent Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR) survey are disturbing. More than 25 percent of construction workers who had suffered a work-related injury at some point in their career did not report it.

The focus group participants identified multiple reasons why workers failed to report workplace injuries:

Workers who explained their failure to report a work-related injury were most likely to say that "my injury was small" and "pain is a natural part of my job," according to the CPWR. Several of the workers surveyed indicated that they feared employer retaliation or loss of work opportunities, or that they could not afford to take time off work to see a doctor.

Non-reporting or underreporting of injuries is a reflection of a poor safety culture and can lead to serious and sometimes fatal injuries. OSHA considers reporting a work-related injury to be a core employee right and last year addressed the issue of safety incentives that might discourage reporting of incidents, defining when they are discriminatory.

Top management needs to encourage employees to report any incident, no matter how big or small. Early reporting ensures that safety issues can be addressed and the injury treated immediately, avoiding unnecessary complications. To improve injury reporting, researchers recommended creating a climate of open communication with an emphasis on problem solving.

The study was published in August in the International Journal of Occupational Safety and Ergonomics.