Mar 2013

Massachusetts Work Injuries and the Impact of Sequester

In Massachusetts, there are many laws in place intended to protect workers. Some of those laws exist at the state level and others exist at the federal level. Many of the laws are enforced by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). 

Unfortunately, Massachusetts workers could find themselves facing greater risk of work injuries in upcoming months. This is because of the impact of something called the “sequester.” Our Fall River, MA work injury attorneys know that any work accident can have a devastating impact on a person’s earning potential, health and life. We urge all workers to be aware of the new potential risks that they may face.

The Sequester and MA Work Injuries

The “sequester” is a term that refers to $85 billion in cuts to the federal budget that went into effect on March 1, 2013. The cuts were arbitrary cuts to both domestic programs and to the military. They were never intended to actually go into effect, but instead were part of a game of political brinksmanship that America lost.

The cuts were put into place and set to trigger automatically if Democrats and Republicans were unable to agree on a deal to cut spending. They were intended to be so onerous that neither side would let them go into effect. However, the parties could not agree and the sequester cuts were triggered. Now, workers in Falls River, MA and throughout the state of Massachusetts could pay the price.

Departments have used the cuts as an excuse to make voters as miserable as possible, and everything from TSA agents and air traffic control towers to funding cuts at the National Weather Service have already been announced.

The sequester cuts may affect workplace safety because:

  • Federal employers may need to furlough employees, both in military positions and in civilian positions. Furloughed employees means that workplaces may be left shorthanded, which increases the chances of workers getting hurt. This is especially true if workers are trying to fill in for their furloughed coworkers and do jobs they normally don’t.
  • OSHA inspectors are being furloughed, and fewer workplace inspections will occur. According to the National Safety Council, the number of inspections may decrease dramatically and as many as 1,200 possibly dangerous worksites will go without being inspected. Without proper oversight, employers lose incentive to follow safety rules and workers on dangerous worksites don’t get relief from OSHA inspectors that could improve their conditions.
  • Employers who are hurt by the economic implications of sequester may try to reduce their budgets by becoming more lax in obeying safety rules. Sequester is expected to result in slower economic growth so even employers not affiliated with the federal government may be forced to cut back. Some employers could chose to do this in a way that hurts their workers.
Finally, another concern is that insurers may be more likely to treat workers’ compensation claims with skepticism. On one website for insurance underwriters, Property  Casualty 360, insurers were cautioned that employees fearing layoffs or furloughs might be inclined to make more workers’ comp claims. The website particularly warned insurers against claims for soft tissue injury, since there is no way for a medical test to conclusively show if someone does or does not have such a condition.
Workers with soft tissue injuries are already treated with suspicion due to the fact that no medical test can prove that the injury exists. The sequester and the resulting suspicion from insurers is only going to make things harder for these injured workers.
If you have been injured at work, contact an experienced accident lawyer at 508-677-4900 . The Law Offices of Deborah G. Kohl  serves clients in Providence, R.I., as well as Foxborough and Fall River, Mass.

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