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Federal agencies and workplace safety

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, approximately 165,000 civilian federal employees in Pennsylvania and nationwide became ill or injured on the job in fiscal year 2004. This led to more than $2.3 billion in workers' compensation bills. That amount increased to more than $3 billion in 2012 with nearly two-thirds of it paid as wage-loss compensation.

Federal job sites should be kept free from health and safety hazards, and the employers should report unsafe working conditions. They should also have emergency procedures, protective equipment for employees and regular workplace inspections. Potentially dangerous conditions should also be corrected promptly.

Even when all precautions are taken, employees can still get hurt. While traumatic injuries can be immediately apparent, occupational illnesses might take years to manifest. This is why claims for different types of injuries can take varying times to resolve; a traumatic injury claim might take 45 days while a complex occupational illness claim could take up to 10 months. The occupational illness claim would likely require more investigation to determine if the illness truly developed during the course of employment, such as respiratory problems following exposure to chemicals.

Most workers' compensation cases will be resolved through no-fault insurance claims. This means that neither the employee nor the employer needs to show that the other was at fault for the claim to be approved or denied. There are some exceptions to this, which a workers' compensation lawyer could explain. The lawyer could also demonstrate the differences between state and federal workers' compensation laws and why the state laws would not apply to a federal worker who is employed within that state.

Source: U.S. Department of Labor, "Division of Federal Employees' Compensation (DFEC)"

Source: osha.gov, "Occupational Safety and Health for Federal Employees", September 15, 2014

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