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Public workers getting overhaul to workplace safety standards

A serious injury can be one of the worst experiences in any adult's life. Not only does one have to deal with the injury itself, but oftentimes the person must deal with the consequences of the injury as well. A serious enough injury can prevent a person from being able to work or even carry out normal day-to-day activities. But, if the injury was caused by a workplace accident, workers' compensation laws are likely to come into effect. Unfortunately, federal OSHA standards and rules do not extend to state employees because public workers are not covered under the law. Public workers must look elsewhere for worker protections.

The Massachusetts Employee Safety and Health Advisory Committee recently submitted its report and recommendations regarding public employee's health and safety. The report found that between 2010 and 2012 nearly 3,000 workers suffered injuries severe enough to require time off from work, at a cost of over a $100 million a year in worker compensation cost alone. The committee was formed to address employee safety due to OSHA not extending to public workers. The report found that the three highest areas for work-related injury are with the state's health and human services workers, correction officers, maintenance personnel and officers working at MassDot.

The committee has recommended many changes which are likely to be codified. One of the committee's findings is that the best way to help state employees is to make federal safety standards the minimally accepted standard for the state. State departments have already begun implementing many of the safety changes recommended by the committee, but some changes are likely to take longer to accomplish.

Source: Pembroke, "Report Finds Massachusetts Pays Nearly $100 Million per Year for Injuries to State Workers," Sandy Smith, March 26, 2014

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