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September 1991, Vol. 114, No. 9
Federal Employees' Compensation Act
Role of workers' compensation in developing safer workplaces
James R. Chelius
The 75th anniversary of the Federal Employees' Compensation Act (FECA) is an opportune time to reflect on broad policy issues of no-fault work injury liability statutes. Policy discussions regarding occupational safety and health usually are divided into two distinct parts with (1) government standards established under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) as the regulatory device for encouraging prevention and (2) workers' compensation considered as the program for providing benefits to disabled workers.1 However, the much debated standards approach established under the Occupational Safety and Health Act draws attention to the role of workers' compensation as a part of the policy mix for improving the health and safety of employees.
General issues of safety and health and their effect on employers and employees are first considered in this article. Then the mechanics of determining workers' compensation benefits in the private sector and how this process relates to employer prevention incentives are briefly reviewed. Evidence on the effect of workers' compensation on safety and health is also discussed. Finally, the specific arrangements by which Federal agencies are charged for the work injury liabilities of their employees are compared with arrangements used in the private sector to determine whether the Federal arrangements are consistent with the objective of encouraging prevention of injury and illness.
This excerpt is from an article published in the September 1991 issue of the Monthly Labor Review. The full text of the article is available in Adobe Acrobat's Portable Document Format (PDF). See How to view a PDF file for more information.
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1 For example, a recent General Accounting Office report on Options for Improving Safety and Health in the Workplace included a discussion of a series of legislative and administrative options such as reducing delays in standards setting, increasing the probability of inspection, stricter penalties, giving inspectors shutdown authority for imminent dangers, strengthening OSHA's education and training efforts, requiring worksite safety and health committees, and increasing worker involvement in inspections. Consideration of workers' compensation systems was dismissed as an option because it was not frequently identified by "safety and health experts or in the literature" and because of ". . . the extent of evidence we were able to obtain about [its] feasibility," See U.S. General Accounting Office, Briefing report to the Subcommittee on Health and Safety, Committee on Education, House of Representatives, Occupational Safety and Health: Options for Improving Safety and Health in the Workplace (Washington, General Accounting Office, 1990), GAO/HRD-90-66BR.
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