Concluding our agency spotlight on the National Park Service this month, we will look at common causes injuries of NPS workers.
Of the 133+ federal agencies, the NPS consistently has one of the highest injury/fatality rates among its employees, losing 86 employees (Line of Duty/On Duty) in the last 25 years. From 2005-2010, over 3,800 employees were hurt in a way that caused them to miss at least one day of work. It’s not hard to understand why this is the case. Dangerous wildlife and rough, steep terrain contribute to this being a potentially dangerous agency to work for.
Section 188.8.131.52 of the 2006 NPS management policy states “the safety and health of employees, contractors, volunteers, and the public are core service values”. The policy is further defined and requires each NPS employee to:
- Adhere to established occupational safety and health procedures.
- Work collaboratively with supervisors to develop and use Job Hazard Analysis (JHA) or the equivalent for all routine tasks, and help develop and use site-specific safety plans for non-routine, complex, multi-phase jobs.
- Properly use and maintain required clothing and/or personal protective equipment.
- Maintain a level of personal wellness and fitness as needed for assigned work tasks.
- Identify, and where appropriate, correct unsafe conditions and work practices.
- Report unsafe/unhealthful conditions and/or operations to an immediate supervisor or appropriate chain of command.
- Report mishaps, including minor accidents and “near misses” ASAP.
- Participate in establishing a safe working culture, and practice safe work procedures, even when working alone.
We have helped many NPS employees throughout the years with their federal disability retirements. Below are a few we have helped.
Student Trainee—Electro Technician
This employee had 3-level spine neck fusion, cervical myelopathy, and had 25 percent whole person impairment. Their position required them to climb towers and stairs and crouch over in tight spaces to repair electrical systems. Due to these injuries, among others, this person was not able to stand or walk over rough terrain for long periods of time, couldn’t lift radio transmitters or electrical equipment, work in remote locations where there was climbing mountainous terrain, or climb radio towers for inspections and repair.
Chief Park Ranger in Oregon
This person suffered from PTSD, depression, and anxiety. These kept them from performing job duties like being alone in isolated and remote areas with no access to help. They had a hard time detecting real/perceived threats. This job position requires an employee to serve Law Enforcement Commissioned Rangers. Some responsibilities include performing law enforcement duties to ensure protection and safe use of national park resources, assimilation of state laws, conducting investigations, participate, and assist agencies and law enforcement officers, and perform search and rescue missions. This employee was unable to complete these tasks at an acceptable level.
Marine Machinery Repairer
This worker suffered from lumbar disc herniation, numbness in legs and arms, and sacroiliitis, which is the inflammation of one or both sacroiliac joints. It causes pain in the lower back and can extend down one or both legs. Their job required them to fix machinery in tight spaces and climbing stairs and ladders. Unfortunately, this person was unable to stoop down, stand for long periods of time, or climb ladders and stairs.
Maintenance Mechanic Supervisor
The federal employee suffered from coronary artery disease, prostate cancer, arthritis, sporadic paralysis of the right hand, and degenerative disc disease. Their job, located at Mammoth Cave National Park, required them to perform maintenance on 154 buildings. They were also responsible for 9 miles of underground utilities such as water, sewer, and electrical systems. Due to their injuries/diseases, they were unable to walk long distances, climb stairs or ladders, fight wildfires, or grip objects and tools to perform routine maintenance.