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Doctors to Employers: Stop Downplaying Workers’ Injuries!

The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM) has sent a letter to federal workplace safety regulators outlining their growing concern with companies that downplay worker safety issues.  Dr. Robert McLellan, president of ACOEM, says that the 5,000 doctors he represents “feel they are being methodically pressured . . . to under-treat and mistreat” their patients because of pressures from employers.

The doctor’s are upset that employers seem to care more about their own bottom lines than about their employees well-beings.  It works something like this.  Employers are required to record all workplace injuries that require time off or medical treatment beyond first aid.  Workplaces with low injury rates have lower insurance premiums.  So employers have an incentive to under-treat injuries.  For instance, a cut that might require stitches is sometimes treated with a simple bandage.  Because the bandage is “first aid,” but stitches are not, the bandage goes unreported and the insurance premiums stay low.

Outraged that ACOEM members are pressured by employers to under-treat their patients, McLellan has contacted the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and expects to meet with them about his concerns next month.  ACOEM’s goals are to have OSHA regulators rely on a broad spectrum of workplace safety measures (not just the number of injuries) and to rewrite some of the rules in order to remove the incentive to underreport injuries.

Anything that gets employers to stop caring so much about their bottom lines and a little more about their employees sounds good to us!