Obama and OSHA to Try and Improve Health and Safety of Federal Workers

An Obama memorandum released yesterday issued a challenge to the heads of executive departments and agencies to improve the health and safety of Federal civilian employees.

The Presidential POWER Initiative: Protecting Our Workers and Ensuring Reemployment instructs governmental agencies to coordinate efforts with OSHA to "improve workplace safety and health, reduce the financial burden of injury on taxpayers, and relieve unnecessary suffering by workers and their families," by reducing preventable work-related injuries and illnesses.

According to the White House memorandum, Federal workers filed over 79,000 new claims and received over $1.6 billion in workers' compensation payments in 2009. This new push, aimed at protecting federal workers, comes at the same time OSHA is working on a standard for the private sector that would require every employer to identify and fix workplace hazards.

Obama's memorandum is further evidence of the government's shifting strategy towards requiring employers to proactively addresses workplace safety and health hazards. If legislation supported by OSHA, currently working its way through Congress, is successfully passed into law, employers could see significant changes in the fines and penalties it faces for failure to fix problems, even before an event occurs.

Read our post on Dr. David Michaels's testimony to a House committee to learn more.