Improved Workplace Safety = Big Bucks for Government

The federal government could save billions by doing a better job of protecting its employees, says one watchdog group.

A watchdog group is snapping at the heels of the Bush administration and Congress, calling on them to improve workplace safety at federal agencies, saying that billions of dollars are wasted each year because of injuries and illnesses experienced by government employees.

"The challenge for government leaders in the next few months will be to find ways to save taxpayer dollars without weakening the war on terrorism or compromising national security," says Tom Schatz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW). "Improving workplace safety is a great place to start."

Schatz cited statistics that show federal accident and injury rates are far higher than in private industry. According to him, federal workers report some 160,000 new workplace injury and illness claims each year.

"Most safety experts believe that workplace injuries and fatalities could be reduced by at least 90 percent," Schatz notes. "Well-managed private firms, including some of the largest companies in the country, are proving it. They have dramatically reduced worker illnesses, injuries and deaths by introducing comprehensive workplace safety training programs and protocols."

Each year, says Schatz, the federal government spends approximately $2 billion under the Federal Employees Compensation Act (FECA) to compensate victims and their families for workplace illnesses, injuries and deaths. "This is just a tip of the iceberg," adds Schatz.

Added costs include lost productivity, diminished worker morale, new training and recruitment for staff replacements and other indirect costs. "Taken together," says Schatz, "these can easily add up to five to 10 times the cost of FECA."

Schatz also announced CAGW''s plans to do an in-depth study of workplace safety in the federal government to explore the cause of federal agencies'' current safety problems and make recommendations for improving federal workplace safety. The study will be published in early 2002.

By Sandy Smith

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