A recent review of the data used to determine the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Annual Survey of Occupational Illnesses and Injuries indicates that anywhere between 33 and 69 percent of all non-fatal workplace injuries were missed by the BLS survey.
The review, headed by Dr. J.P. Leigh from the University of California at Davis, also concluded that one in five workers are annually omitted from the BLS survey because of the nature of the count. Included in the list of uncounted workers are self-employed, agricultural workers on farms of fewer than 11 workers, employees regulated by other federal safety and health laws, workers in federal, state and local government agencies, and private household workers. The list, noted researchers, fails to even include police and firefighters.
According to researchers, the BLS does acknowledge that its survey design excludes certain employment categories. However, researchers also note that because of other economic and workplace incentives, businesses and workers may intentionally underreport injuries. Examples given for underreporting include situations where it is felt that an injury would cause worker’s compensation premiums to rise or that an injury might keep a worker from obtaining a promotion.
Researchers agreed that it was important to determine the degree to which the survey potentially omits injuries for a couple of reasons: the BLS Bulletins and news releases tend to minimize the limitations of the annual survey, and people, including journalists, seeking to find an estimate of the national number of non-fatal work-related injuries would be unaware that the survey excludes over 20 percent of all workers and over seven million work-related injury cases annually, including injuries incurred by public safety officers.
Source: Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine