Are federal agency employees at greater risk to die from an occupational injury or illness than workers in "high risk" private industries such as manufacturing, poultry slaughtering and processing, industrial machinery and equipment production? According to a report released by Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW), the answer is "yes."
A debate over protections for government workers, who are not protected by federal or state-plan Occupational Safety and Health Administrations (OSHA), has raged on for years. The CAGW report, "Workplace Safety in the Federal Government: Record of Failure, Legacy of Waste," found that federal workplace injuries and deaths cost taxpayers at least $2 billion a year in medical and compensation costs alone. Numerous indirect economic costs, including lost productivity and diminished worker morale, and other direct costs, can increase that total to as much as $10 billion a year, according to the report.
"Congress should hold oversight hearings to find out why the federal government fails dismally to safeguard federal employees on the job," said the report''s author, CAGW Senior Fellow John E. Frydenlund. "The bottom line is the federal government can get twice the ''bang'' for the buck: accomplish a safer federal workplace and put the savings toward winning the war on terrorism or other national priorities."
The report is based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and OSHA. Some interesting findings include:
The occupational injury rate for the Government Printing Office was four times higher than the commercial printing trade services industry in both 1999 and 2000.
The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) accounts for 28 percent of the federal government workers covered by the government''s Federal Employment Compensation Act (FECA), but represents 33 percent - $666 million - of the $2 billion FECA spends annually to compensate victims and their families for workplace illnesses, injuries, and deaths.
The report cites numerous workplace safety success models in the private sector, such as DuPont, which has a recordable injury and illness rate that is approximately 1/20 of the average for its SIC code. H.J. Heinz Co., Pittsburgh, Pa., improved its lost workday case rate by 65 percent and reduced the total number of workers compensation claims and the total cost of claims submitted by 50 percent from 1995 to 2000.
Ryder, Miami, Fla., decreased its bodily injury physical damage claims from 4.71 to 3.55 per 1 million miles driven and workers'' compensation expenses per employee from $148 to $104. Ryder received the National Safety Council''s 2002 Green Cross for Safety Award.
"The federal government can improve its workplace safety record by learning from the success stories in the private sector and tapping private industry expertise," Frydenlund concluded. "Doing so could not only save lives and livelihoods, but also taxpayer money."
The full text of the report is available at www.cagw.org
by Sandy Smith ([email protected])