Our Anderson workers' compensation attorneys know that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration plays an important role in keeping workers safe. Unfortunately, cuts to OSHA are just one way in which workers may be endangered by something called the "sequester."
The sequester went into effect on March 1, 2013, cutting the budget of the United States federal government by $85 billion this year. The cuts will occur across-the-board and the Post and Courier indicates that South Carolina is going to be hit hard. One of the potential consequences of the sequester and resulting cuts is that workers in the state may be at greater risk of injury and may have a harder time getting their workers' compensation benefits.
Workplace Injuries May Increase Due to The Sequester
The sequester was established as part of a standoff between Democrats and Republicans in 2011. The leaders of the political parties were not able to come to an agreement on how to cut spending to address the growing deficit in the United States. As a result, the sequester was proposed.
The arrangement was that $85 billion would be automatically cut from defense spending and discretionary spending, if the parties could not agree on an alternative solution. The cuts were intended to be painful so that neither political party would want them to go into effect but the parties could not agree and the cuts took effect on the first of March.
As the Post and Courier indicates, this means that some federal workers in South Carolina will be furloughed. The sequester is expected to slow growth and shrink the GDP, so other employers may also be forced to make personnel cuts as well.
Unfortunately, whenever employers lay off workers or cut back their hours, this increases the chance of an accident happening. After all, fewer workers will be trying to do the same amount of work, which can lead to rushing and careless accidents. Workers may also be asked to complete tasks they don't normally do, which could put them in jeopardy of being hurt.
Employers, strapped for cash by the sequester, might also cut corners when it comes to ensuring a safe workplace or taking steps to protect workers from injury.
Unfortunately, these employers may not be caught if this does occur because OSHA inspectors are also being furloughed. The National Safety Council reports that as many as 1,200 potentially-dangerous worksites will go uninspected as a result of the sequester.
All of these factors come together to mean that more workers may be in danger due to the budget cuts. Tragically, even as the risk of workplace injuries increases, it may become harder for workers to make a claim for workers' compensation benefits. This is because employers and insurance companies may be more suspicious of claims during bad economic times.
As Property Casualty 360 reported in their article, insurers are being cautioned to be alert to claims filed by furloughed workers or by workers fearing a layoff who may exaggerate or invent injuries so they can secure workers' compensation benefits.
Property Casualty 360 specifically singles out soft tissue injury claims. Insurers have always been more suspicious of these kinds of claims since they cannot be conclusively proved or disproved using medical evidence. With this heightened suspicion, workers who have a greater chance of being hurt will also have a harder time getting helped.