Guide to Addressing Underreporting of Safety Incidents

Best Practice Guide

Safety underreporting more pervasive than previously considered

Safety managers have long cited the underreporting of safety incidents in the workplace – accidents, injuries, and illnesses – as a major hurdle to improving safety performance and cementing a positive safety culture. But it appears even frontline managers have underestimated the sheer number of safety incidents that go underreported. Not only is safety reporting more pervasive than previously considered, it’s also happening across business lines and at every level of the organization.

How bad is the issue? A recent Underreporting of Safety Incidents in the Workplace survey put the global total at 25 percent. That’s a full quarter of workplace incidents, including near misses, as well as injuries and property damage events, go underreported. When you zero in on Australia, the figure balloons to 31 percent; some Australia-based firms even report numbers as high as 66 percent. Indeed, credible evidence from the field suggests that all firms suffer from safety incident underreporting. Even the International Labour Organization has called out national reporting numbers on occupational accidents and diseases as incomplete, noting underreporting is rife and official reporting requirements don’t cover all categories of workers.

Across the Pacific, in the U.S., reporting rates are even worse. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as many as 69 percent of injuries and illnesses never make it into the nation’s annual workplace safety and health report card, the Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses (SOII). Consulting data in the SOII, in turn, helps the federal safety regulator, OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), come up with regulations to pressing safety issues.

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