Obama Asks for Improved Safety Conditions for Government Workers

President Obama is asking his administration to make federal workplaces safer. In a memo yesterday, Obama announced his Protecting Our Workers and Ensuring Reemployment (POWER) Initiative, a four-year effort aimed at reducing on-the-job illnesses and injuries among government employees.

“Although the Federal Government has made progress in reducing workplace injuries and illnesses in recent years, its workers…still filed more than 79,000 new claims and received over $1.6 billion in workers’ compensation payments in fiscal year 2009,” according to Obama’s memo.

The memo instructs agencies to work with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Office of Worker’s Compensation to establish performance targets in seven areas. Those areas are, according to the memo:

  1. reducing total injury and illness case rates;
  2. reducing lost time injury and illness case rates;
  3. analyzing lost time injury and illness data;
  4. increasing the timely filing of workers’ compensation claims;
  5. increasing the timely filing of wage-loss claims;
  6. reducing lost production day rates; and
  7. speeding employees’ return to work in cases of serious injury or illness. 

Establishing a performance-based framework is a clever way for Obama to institute change across all government without having to tailor requirements to individual agencies and their circumstances. Presumably, agencies can work with OSHA to identify high-risk areas in order to meet Obama’s goals.

As Ed O’Keefe at The Washington Post points out, the memo was released in advance of a Congressional Oversight hearing, scheduled for Wednesday, that will examine worker safety at federal agencies.




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