In a recent OSHA document, the first to come out after a federal law required employers to report severe work-related injuries, has found a disturbing trend of “numerous reports of fingertip amputations among workers using food slicers.”
The first year of federally-required reporting brought news of the 10,388 severe work-related injuries reported in 2015. The report included 2,644 amputations and 7,636 hospitalizations.
Employers are required to report injuries involving eye loss, amputations, or hospitalization within 24 hours; fatalities must be reported within eight hours. In the past, the top cause for worker-related fatalities was transportation accidents, accounting for 42% of the total injuries in 2012.
Until this requirement, OSHA did not have all the facts or a good grasp on the situation at large. “Too often, we would investigate a fatal injury only to find a history of serious injuries at the same workplace. Each of those injuries was a wake-up call for safety that went unheeded,” said the OSHA report.
The new rule might not even be entirely accurate. “We think the actual number might be twice as high,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor David Michaels.
Some of the other results included reports of a sanitation worker in a Missouri meat processing plant who lost both lower arms when cleaning a blender, a worker whose arm was amputated while he cleared a conveyor jam, and a woman whose arm was mangled by machinery in Chicago.
Those examples come from the private sector, but public agencies like the U.S. Postal Service also rank high on the list of groups reporting severe injuries.
The reports are largely done by the employers onsite; there are too few OSHA inspectors for the number of workplaces in the country. Micheals said that the agency has 2,500 inspectors, and yet there are seven to eight million workplaces.
Some employers use this to their advantage and try to cheat the system, which can be hazardous to employee health.
Peg Seminario, the AFL-CIO safety and health director, said, “The OSHA report shows that teh OSHA Severe Injury Reporting rule issued last year is a common sense regulation that is helping to target dangerous workplaces and to spot emerging safety and health problems that pose a wider threat.”