White House announces initiative to help reduce federal worker injuries and stem costs
Washington — The White House Office of Management and Budget has launched an initiative designed to enhance workplace safety and health – and, in turn, reduce injuries – among federal employees.
According to a Jan. 9 memo from acting Director Russell Vought, the Protecting Employees, Enabling Reemployment Initiative is aimed at getting federal agencies and the U.S. Postal Service to enhance or maintain performance in seven areas:
- Reducing total injury and illness case rates
- Reducing lost-time injury and illness case rates
- Increasing the timely filing rate for workers’ compensation claims
- Increasing the timely filing rate for wage-loss claims
- Increasing the rate of return-to-work outcomes within the first 45 days after an injury for “traumatic injury cases”
- Improving the rate at which employees resume work after “moderate to severe injury or illnesses”
- Implementing and fully using the Department of Labor’s electronic filing system
The first six goals listed are designed to help relieve unnecessary suffering by workers and reduce the financial burden of injury on taxpayers, the memo states. The seventh is aimed at standardizing the claims process.
“It will also aid in direct and immediate communication with an injured employee, facilitating prompt treatment and providing critical opioid awareness and pain education,” Vought wrote.
Federal workers filed nearly 107,000 workers’ comp claims in 2018 and received around $3 billion in payments, the memo states. OSHA and the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs are expected to help coordinate the initiative.
One of the first steps for agencies and executive departments is developing “strategies aimed at achieving performance targets in each category.” Each agency and department will bear its own cost for participating.
“Many of these work-related injuries and illnesses are preventable, and executive departments and agencies can and should do more to improve workplace safety and health, improve efficiencies, reduce the financial burden of injury on taxpayers, and relieve unnecessary suffering by workers and their families,” Vought wrote.