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One of California’s largest utilities has pledged to return millions of dollars in performance-related bonuses awarded by the state after admitting it underreported on-the-job injuries for the last seven years. Southern California Edison Co. told state regulators that it would give up or return $35 million in payments it received based on flawed workplace-safety data, the Los Angeles Times reported Friday. Many of the ratings were distorted because of inadvertent omissions. Other information was kept out of the reports by managers, the company said. “I was pretty flabbergasted,” said Robert Cagen, an attorney for the California Public Utilities Commission who attended a closed meeting Thursday with Edison executives. “What this appears to be is an incentive … to underreport injuries.” Company officials said the injuries were mostly minor and required only basic first aid, but Edison still planned to return all of the bonuses. “We’re just going to offer to give it all back because we don’t have a database to support it,” said Stephen Pickett, Edison’s general counsel. The admission marked the second time this year that problems arose with company data given to regulators under a state program that offers rewards to utilities based on performance. Edison disclosed in March that some employees rigged customer-satisfaction surveys so they would receive larger incentive payments. The company promised in June to return $14.4 million to the commission. Company officials said most of the problems in the safety reporting came from Edison’s failure to record first-aid incidents, such as requests for bandages or ice packs, the Times reported. The company said it also found evidence that incentives rewarding good safety practices “may have discouraged the reporting of some incidents” and may have produced “pressure to not report injuries.” Union officials said they were surprised. “It’s not something running rampant through the company,” said Patrick Lavin, business manager for the International Brotherhood of Electrical workers Local 47. “I’m going to hear about something like that if it were that pervasive.” The bonuses includes $20 million the company has already received, plus $15 million it was expected to receive for 2001 through 2003. Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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