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July 03, 2014
OSHA focuses on protecting federal government workers

OSHA will hold a 3-day training event July 29 to 31 at the OSHA Training Institute near Chicago for federal agency staff with responsibility for workplace safety and health. Why the special attention on those who work for Uncle Sam? Keep reading to learn more.

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The federal government employs some 2.7 million people, or about 2 percent of the country’s working population. While that’s the lowest number in decades, it’s still a lot of employees to protect.

How are federal government workers protected?

Federal agencies must comply with OSHA regulations, even though most (except the United States Postal Service) cannot be fined like private employers can.

In July 2010, President Obama announced a 4-year initiative to reduce injury and illness rates by setting more aggressive performance targets, encouraging the collection and analysis of data, and prioritizing safety and health management programs. The program was known as Protecting Our Workers and Ensuring Reemployment, or POWER.

Agencies with an injury rate above the national average were challenged to reduce their rates by at least 4 percent, while those at or below the national average were challenged with a 1 percent reduction. According to an OSHA spokesperson, since 2010, the federal government total injury and illness rates (excluding the Postal Service) have dropped from 3.08 to 2.51. And lost time case rates have dropped from 1.44 to 1.2. Projections for fiscal year 2014 show further reductions.

Other facts about worker protection in the federal sector:

  • The Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA) is the workers’ compensation program for U.S. government workers. FECA pays disability, survivor, and medical benefits to employees who are injured or become ill in the course of federal employment, and to the survivors of employees killed on the job.
  • Field federal safety and health councils are cooperative interagency organizations that encourage the exchange of ideas and information about occupational safety and health in the federal government. The councils are made up of local federal management and non-management representatives. Most councils meet at least four times a year and also provide networking and training opportunities.
  • The Federal Advisory Council on Occupational Safety and Health (FACOSH) is a presidential board that advises the Secretary of Labor on matters regarding federal workers.

The late July training will cover fall protection, heat stress, electrical hazards, topics addressed in OSHA’s National Emphasis Programs, and other subjects. The goal, says OSHA, is “to ensure that federal workplaces have safety programs and standards consistent with those in the private sector.”

For more information on the OSHA training event, visit the website of the OSHA Training Center, https://www.osha.gov/dte/oti.

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