Federal workers face the same injury risks as those in the private sector and other areas of the public sector. Those risks can be serious. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that 124 federal workers suffered fatal injuries in 2013.
According to the BLS, the leading causes of fatal injuries among workers are:
A federal worker who suffers a job-related personal injury or illness (or families of those workers who have been lost) can seek benefits through the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA). These benefits include coverage of all medical expenses and payment of wages that are lost due to a temporary or permanent disability. They also include death benefits for eligible survivors.
The following is a closer look at leading causes of injuries among federal workers:
Many federal jobs require travel between offices or as a primary function of the job. Postal work is the most obvious example. Car and truck accidents, which are often due to driver error, can be fatal or cause serious injury. In cases where another driver is at fault or a motor vehicle’s malfunction caused an accident, a federal worker may consider filing a personal injury claim in addition to seeking federal workers’ compensation benefits.
Unfortunately, federal workers may also be grievously injured by violence perpetrated by co-workers, customers or the general public. Incidents of violence also include attacks by dogs and other animals – a frequent cause of injury to postal workers. In acts of violence, the perpetrator or an animal’s owner may also be held liable for the worker’s injury, which adds to recoverable compensation for the worker’s losses.
Struck by Object or Equipment
There are many ways a federal worker can suffer a head injury, eye injury, fracture, internal organ injury, cut, bruise or other blunt-force trauma from being struck by an object or equipment. For example, tools and materials can fall from above in a storeroom or roll off a truck. Material stacked incorrectly can fall. Debris can be ejected by a power tool. Or a person who trips can fall into a co-worker and, by striking them, cause them to fall and be injured.
Falls, Slips or Trips
Tripping or slipping on a floor or falling off a ladder, scaffolding or stool is a common cause of injury in all walks of life. Falls can cause broken bones, brain injuries, back and spine injuries and more. In the workplace, using scaling ladders, step stools or other equipment as part of job duties puts a worker at risk of falling. Meanwhile, as other workers leave equipment lying about or leave wet and slippery floors, this can lead to falling accidents as well.
Exposure to Harmful Substances
A federal worker can suffer catastrophic injuries such as burns from being exposed to certain harmful substances in the workplace, including chemicals. A worker may also develop long-term health problems from repeated exposure to smoke, asbestos, diesel exhaust or other harmful substances.
Fire and Explosions
Open-flames, flammable liquids, compressed gases and certain chemicals are potential fire and explosion hazards. At vehicle depots with gas or diesel pumps for cars, trucks or heavy equipment, fuel can be ignited. Many natural and synthetic organic materials as well as some metals can form combustible dust, which can explode without notice. Third- and fourth-degree burns, if survived, typically require treatment that includes multiple painful surgeries and rehabilitation and leave the victim disabled.
Caught-in / Caught-between Accidents
Workers involved in “caught” accidents can suffer fractures and tearing injuries if their body parts or clothing become caught in machines, or if the worker is crushed between objects or torn by moving parts. Caught-in accidents also include trench, excavation or structure collapses, which may cause crushing injuries as well as oxygen-depletion injuries.
The stress and strain from overexertion can injure muscles, nerves and tendons in the neck, upper extremities and lower back. Typical work activities that can cause such musculoskeletal injuries include lifting, pushing, pulling, holding and carrying tools, materials and other objects. They can also be caused by bending, reaching overhead, working in awkward body postures and performing the same or similar tasks repetitively. Workers can suffer sprains, strains, tears, pinched nerves, herniated discs, hernia, carpal or tarsal tunnel syndrome and similar injuries that cause potentially debilitating pain, swelling and numbness.
Electrocution / Shock
Workers who come into contact with electrical currents may suffer electrocution, which is death, or shock, which encompasses electrical burns and other injuries caused by the passage of electric current through the body. Electrical currents can also cause fires, explosions, arc flash and arc blast – each of which may lead to burn injuries. Shock and electrocution may be caused by contact with overhead power lines, damaged fixtures, bare wires or defective equipment or tools.
We Can Help You to Seek Federal Benefits
It can be difficult for those who have never before applied for federal benefits to properly document a federal workers’ compensation or disability benefits claim. The rules governing benefits available to federal workers injured on the job are lengthy and complex. Workers who are eligible for multiple benefits may find that they offset each other, which means your total benefit could be less than what you deserve if your claim is structured improperly.
Harris Federal can help you to sort through the confusion and work diligently to pursue the benefits or other compensation you deserve. We work with federal employees across the country. To learn how we can help you, simply call or contact us online today.
Sources / More Information
- National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries in 2013, Bureau of Labor Statistics
- 2013 Workplace Safety Index, Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety
- Worker Safety Series – Construction, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
- Ergonomics – Prevention of Musculoskeletal Disorders in the Workplace, OSHA
- Combustible Dust – An Explosion Hazard, OSHA
- CA-11 When Injured at Work Information Guide for Federal Employees, Division of Federal Employees’ Compensation