Pennsylvania has third most worker injury reports
Brian Bowling | Saturday, July 1, 2017, 11:00 p.m.
Fingers take a beating in Pennsylvania workplaces, according to federal injury data.
Of 1,595 severe injuries Pennsylvania employers reported to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in 2015 and 2016, about 28 percent involved injuring or losing fingers or fingernails.
Throw in the rest of the hand, and that accounts for about a third of all injuries. By comparison, toes accounted for less than 1 percent of severe injuries.
OSHA defines a “severe injury” as an amputation, loss of an eye or a hospitalization.
The agency started collecting the severe injury data in 2015, and it only includes employers covered by the federal safety program. California and 21 other states have their own OSHA-type programs, so their reported injuries only cover federal workers or workers injured in federal jurisdictions, such as shipyards.
Pennsylvania had the third-highest number of injuries reported in the two-year period, even though it's sixth in population.
Texas had the most, with 3,229 injuries reported in the two-year period. Florida was second with 1,997 reported injuries. Both have more people than Pennsylvania.
Two other states with more people reported fewer injuries: Illinois, 1,251; and New York, 984.
Experts advised caution in drawing conclusions from the state's ranking.
“There are many factors that influence both the number and rate of occupational injuries and illnesses,” said Labor Department spokeswoman Leni Fortson. “Conclusions that working in one state is ‘more hazardous' than another requires looking at more than just one data point.”
Since the data depends on employers reporting the injuries, it's likely to be incomplete, said John Mendeloff, a University of Pittsburgh public policy professor who has studied OSHA at the university and for the RAND Corp.
“Most of these events are not being reported to OSHA,” he said. “Therefore, you have to be careful about interpreting the numbers.”
While the severe injury data program is new, OSHA has required employers to report workplace injuries for decades.
In a 2012 RAND study, Mendeloff and another researcher compared fatal accidents in the construction industry, which tend to be well reported, with nonfatal injury data reported by construction employers. They found that states with the highest number of fatal injuries tended to be the states where employers reported the fewest non-fatal injuries.
In particular, “employers in West Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi are less likely to report injuries than in New England and the West Coast,” he said.
They focused on the construction industry since it has the highest number of fatalities and would provide enough data for a state-by-state comparison. The study covered injuries reported between 2003 and 2008.