An estimated 72,000 new employees will join federal agencies in 2015, the Office of Management and Budget reports. According to Federal Times, this “hiring spree” is due to the lapse of sequestration cuts and hiring freezes. Many agencies will soon be returning to staffing levels they had in 2013.
A concern is whether increased federal hiring will, at the same time, lead to an increase in workplace injuries due to new employees being improperly trained, equipped and supervised.
The Federal Times report specifically points to hiring planned in the Defense Department, Veterans Administration, Justice Department, Agriculture Department, Health and Human Services Department and Department of Homeland Security.
This hiring is separate from the proposed addition of more than 34,000 federal employees included in President Obama’s budget proposal for the 2016 fiscal year.
Surge in New Employees Typically Leads to Spike in Work Injuries
Assuming the new hires are less experienced workers – some may be recalled workers who were separated in prior federal workforce reductions – statistics show they are more likely to be injured on the job.
At normal employment levels, workers with less than one year of experience with an employer represent 25 percent of the workforce, yet they account for 34 percent of the lost-time claims and costs due to injuries, according to the Zurich insurance company, citing U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data.
Zurich’s own statistics indicate that workers with less than one year of experience represent 38 percent of lost-time claims and 43 percent of lost-time claim costs.
“In prior recoveries [from recession], when employers increased their workforce to meet the raised demand for their products and services, the number of workers’ compensation claims tended to rise … New and less experienced employees were found to be significantly more likely to become injured,” Zurich states.
Also, in a recovery, an agency’s more experienced employees are likely to take advantage of opportunity that was lacking during the recession and seek new, better paying employment. This leaves the agency staffed with even more workers who have less experience than departing veterans.
Zurich states that the main factors that contribute to an increase in claims with employees on the job for less than one year are:
- Inappropriate job placement
- Lack of appropriate orientation and training
- Lack of familiarity with hazards of the workplace or specific operation of equipment
- Lack of familiarity with work processes and co-workers
- Tendency to take shortcuts with safety procedures to complete tasks on time
- Hesitancy to ask for help or information needed to work safely.
Federal Agencies Can Make the Workplace Safer
Each of these potentially problematic factors can be overcome with agency leaders’ time and effort.
They need to take the time necessary to conduct a thorough and conscientious recruiting process that will result in hiring quality personnel. Then, the agency must ensure that new hires are fully trained.
Once on the job, each employee should be properly equipped and treated in a manner that makes them comfortable about doing their jobs correctly. They should feel free to come forward with questions, concerns and suggestions about how to provide a safer work environment.
When accidents do occur, as they inevitably do under even the best circumstances, agency supervisors should help their workers to obtain appropriate workers’ compensation benefits, which are designed to speed recovery and help to get injured workers back on the job.
Any federal employee that sustains a workplace injury that will ultimately limit their ability of fully performing their federal job needs to understand and consider federal disability retirement benefits.
Such an open and helpful attitude from an agency’s managers is not only appropriate. It will also increase morale across the agency, leading to employees who are more attentive to work tasks and less likely to injure themselves.