One may not think that Internal Revenue Service (IRS) employees face the same kinds of injury risks as workers in construction, delivery or manufacturing.
However, the reality is that officer workers throughout the IRS face plenty of hazards that can lead to injuries or disabilities that could qualify them for federal disability retirement benefits or other benefits.
Among the eight most common risks are:
Anyone can slip or trip on the job. The National Safety Council reports that workers actually are 2.5 times more likely to suffer a disabling fall in an office setting than anywhere else.
Office workers may suffer a fall due to cluttered or wet and slippery floors. A worker who stands on a chair to reach something overhead can fall. A fall can lead to debilitating traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury or fractures.
Office workers are also commonly injured in what are known as “struck by/caught by” accidents. For example, injuries can occur when a file cabinet or desk with too many open drawers topples over and hits someone or when stacked materials fall onto an office worker.
The U.S. Congress Office of Compliance reports that heavy items can pose a great safety risk to employees and should always be stored close to the floor. Care should also be taken to never exceed the safe load capacity of shelving or storage units.
The possibility of a fire breaking out is a legitimate risk in any building. During winter, portable space heaters can pose a major workplace fire safety hazard, the Office of Compliance states. Fires can be caused by space heaters without adequate safety features, space heaters placed near combustibles or space heaters that are improperly plugged in.
Extension cords can also present a serious fire safety hazard in the workplace. The most common cause of fires from extension cords is improper use and/or over-loading.
An IRS office worker may suffer a disability due to repeated strain or repetitive motion. One National Safety Council publication suggests that ergonomic injuries actually are the most frequent injuries suffered in an office setting.
WebMD lists several examples of musculoskeletal problems that may be related to ergonomic issues, including bursitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, muscle strain and tendon injury. Adjusting your workstation can reduce strain that leads to ergonomic injury.
WebMD states that poor lighting in an office – too little or too much – can lead to eyestrain, irritation, loss of the ability to focus or double vision. Vision problems can also lead to headaches from straining to see clearly and/or neck and back pains caused by hunching over to see small items.
Noise from telephones, computers, printers and other sources can damage hearing and produce tension and stress that interferes with an office worker’s ability to concentrate, WebMD states.
Unfortunately, federal workers may also be injured by violence committed by customers. Workers at the IRS face a unique threat due to the nature of their work.
The IRS employee manual, in fact, includes a section about the “Potentially Dangerous Taxpayer” in a chapter about employee protection. It refers to assault, threat and intimidation of IRS employees, including threats to their immediate family members.
When you work for the IRS, mental stress can be constant – especially during “tax season” in March and April. Job stress results when there is a poor match between job demands and workers’ capabilities, resources or needs, according to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
Stress-related disorders encompass a broad array of conditions, including:
- Psychological disorders (depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder)
- Emotional disturbances (dissatisfaction, fatigue, tension)
- Maladaptive behaviors (aggression, substance abuse)
- Cognitive impairment (memory loss, inability to concentrate).
Additionally, periods of disability due to job stress tend to be much longer than disability periods for other occupational injuries and illnesses, NIOSH states.
Office Workers Have a Right to Seek Disability Benefits
Office workers at the IRS and other federal agencies should know that there are several programs designed to assist them if they suffer a disabling injury or illness.
For instance, workers’ compensation benefits are available if an injury or illness is work-related. Federal disability retirement benefits may be sought if an eligible worker suffers from a medical condition that prevents the worker from doing his or her job – regardless of whether the condition is work-related.
You can check out the IRS Employee Assistance & Worklife Referral Program for information about other programs.
If you are a federal employee who needs assistance obtaining benefits you have earned with your service, the Harris Federal Law Firm is here to help. Please contact us to discuss your needs today.