The news headline in recent days has been the House committee hearing on the underreporting of workplace injuries and illnesses. Click here.
The June 27, 2008 episode of Bill Moyers Journal gave us the story behind the story. Bill Moyers Journal questioned why injury rates have dropped at poultry plants, one of the most dangerous and grueling industries around, and why the number of OSHA inspections at such plants has gone down as well.
The storyline of the Bill Moyers Journal episode originated from the Charlotte Observer's investigative series "The Cruelest Cuts", which was published in February 2008. The newspaper's investigation in turn led to the aforementioned House Committee hearing on June 19, 2008 on the underreporting of workplace injuries and illnesses.
Bill Moyers Journal interviewed the reporters at the Charlotte Observer as well as some poultry line workers. Some of the key points made were:
So essentially OSHA is enabling employers like these poultry plants to regulate themselves or as one OSHA insider commented, "the students are grading themselves".
Some of these self-regulating poultry plants have also twisted the concept of return to work by adopting what appears to be a zero tolerance for lost time injury by forcing employees into a quick return to work under the threat of losing their jobs.
Return to work programs should benefit both the injured worker and the employer, and not just the employer and insurer at the expense of the injured worker's physical and mental well being and safety in the workplace.
But in the case of these poultry line workers, one has to wonder if "return to work or else!" is the name of the game now?