A report from the Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR) suggests that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) may underestimate the number of construction injuries which occur annually in the U.S. This may be especially true for injuries which occur within small construction companies of 10 or fewer employees. As injury data informs the evolution of safety regulations, this underreporting will likely have an adverse effect on worker safety.
The report, "Injury Underreporting Among Small Establishments in the Construction Industry," was published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine. The report determined that a major reason for the BLS's underestimation is that, out of all construction companies, small construction companies are the most likely to fail to report or underreport their workers' injuries. According to the report, small firms also have a higher percentage and greater severity of construction accident injuries than medium or large companies.
The report concluded that small companies underreport their injuries across the board, but are more likely to underreport injuries to non-white workers. Some of the findings that supported this conclusion include:
•· Although the 45 percent of the workers at small companies are Hispanic, only 8-16 percent of injuries among Hispanic workers are reported.
•· On the other hand, 36 percent of the workers at small companies are white, but 21-25 percent of injuries among white workers are reported.
The Effect of Underreporting
"Data accuracy is extremely important for occupational safety and health surveillance...," the report said. Without complete and accurate data, the report indicated, there is no way to determine whether safety measures are working. In addition, accurate data is essential to safety regulations and policy processes. Finally, accurate data ensures that funding and other resources are distributed in the most efficient and effective manner.
If underreporting continues, it is likely that worker safety will suffer, as the inaccurate data will stymie efforts to provide necessary resources and safety regulations. If you have been injured while working on a construction site, contact an attorney experienced in construction site accidents to ensure that your rights are protected.