New initiative would also seek to reduce workplace injuries to decrease "the financial burden of injury on taxpayers."
The White House is calling on federal agencies to develop new strategies to reduce injuries in the federal workplace and to help those who are hurt to get back to work more quickly, creating a new, governmentwide push to help accomplish the goal.
The Protecting Employees, Enabling Reemployment (PEER) Initiative will task each agency with developing specific strategies and goals to slash injuries on the job and time off of work due to injuries, Office of Management and Budget acting Director Russ Vought said in a memorandum dated Thursday. He noted that 107,000 federal employees filed new workers’ compensation claims in 2018 and received $3 billion in payments.
All agencies, including the U.S. Postal Service, will face a requirement to improve or maintain performance in a series of areas, including total injury and case rates, time lost due to injury and sickness, and filing claims in a timely manner. Agencies will have to increase the rate of employees who return to work within 45 days after traumatic injuries and ensure employees get back on the job more quickly in cases of “moderate-to-severe injury or illness.”
The initiative will “help relieve unnecessary suffering by workers and reduce the financial burden of injury on taxpayers,” Vought said.
An OMB spokesman said the Labor Department will take the lead on the effort.
“Every year our federal employees sustain work-related injuries and illnesses that could be prevented,” the spokesman said. “This [Labor Department] initiative will help develop important strategies to improve workplace safety and health for our federal workforce.”
All agencies will also have to begin using Labor’s electronic filing system, which OMB said would standardize the claims process and ease communication with injured employees. The effort will also address President Trump’s push to reduce the use of opioids, Vought said, by providing additional oversight. The Labor Department last year said federal employees receiving workers’ compensation benefits will be limited to opioid prescriptions in seven-day increments, up to 28 days.
OMB tasked agencies with Labor’s Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs and Occupational Safety and Health Administration to develop strategies that will help them achieve the various goals. Vought added agencies would not receive any additional funds to carry out their obligations under the protecting employees initiative.
“Many of these work-related injuries and illnesses are preventable,” Vought said, “and executive departments and agencies can and should do more to improve workplace safety and health, improve efficiencies, reduce the financial burden of injury on taxpayers, and relieve unnecessary suffering by workers and their families.”