Earlier this year, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced that federal safety inspectors determined that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) improperly exposed maintenance workers at an Arizona healthcare facility to unacceptable safety risks. Alarmingly, this happened despite the fact that a similar safety violation contributed to the deaths of two workers in Connecticut in 2020. In this article, our workers’ comp lawyer in Phoenix provides a more detailed overview of this case and explains the steps that you should take if you or a loved one was hurt on the job while working for a federal employer in Arizona.
Veterans Care Facility in Arizona Exposed Workers to Serious Safety Hazards
Based on an investigation and the findings of OSHA, the VA has been found responsible for improperly compromising the health and safety of its maintenance workers at its Prescott, Arizona healthcare facility. OSHA cited the VA’s Northern Arizona Healthcare System for one willful and two repeated violations. Further, the federal agency issued three severe notices for endangering workers to burns and other serious injuries during an inspection that took place in late 2022.
The discovery of workplace safety violations at the facility comes less than two years after similar violations led to the fatal burning of two workers in Connecticut. The Prescott facility was found lacking in energy-isolating procedures, or lockout/tagout—and these are crucial in preventing hazardous energy release during maintenance. OSHA stressed the need for all VA facilities to ensure compliance with safety standards to avoid another tragedy
Understanding the Workers’ Compensation Rights of Federal Employees in Arizona
There are federal workers all across the country, including many thousands in Arizona. A key thing to know is that federal workers technically do not fall under Arizona’s workers’ comp laws. Instead, they are required to file for benefits through a separate federal system. Here are four essential things that federal workers should know about their rights and options:
- Federal Workers have their Own Workers’ Comp System: While most states operate their own workers’ compensation system, federal employees, including those based in Arizona, are covered under a separate program: the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA). Established in 1916, FECA is managed by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs. It provides benefits to federal employees who are injured or become ill as a result of their work duties.
- Coverage is Still No-Fault, Benefits are Similar to Arizona Workers’ Comp: Just like the Arizona Workers’ Comp system, the FECA operates on a no-fault basis. This means that an employee does not need to prove their employer was negligent to receive benefits. As long as the injury or illness is work-related, the worker is eligible for compensation. Benefits under the FECA system are comparable to those in Arizona’s system, covering medical expenses, rehabilitation costs, and providing compensation for lost wages.
- You Must File Your Workers’ Comp Form Directly With a Federal Employer: Unlike the state system where you typically file your claim with an insurance company, under FECA, federal employees must file their workers’ compensation claims directly with their federal employer. The employer is then responsible for forwarding the claim to the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs for processing. Understanding this procedure is crucial for federal employees, as any missteps can delay the process or potentially lead to a denial of the claim. An Arizona workers’ comp lawyer can help you understand your rights.
- Any Appeal Goes Through the Federal Employees’ Compensation Appeals Board: If a federal employee’s workers’ compensation claim is denied, they have the right to appeal, but the process differs from that of state workers’ compensation claims. In the federal system, appeals are handled by the Employees’ Compensation Appeals Board (ECAB). Established in 1946, the ECAB has the final authority to review and decide on cases under the FECA. An understanding of ECAB procedures and requirements is essential for federal employees.
Call Our Arizona Workers’ Compensation Attorneys Today
At Snow, Carpio and Weekley, PLC, our Arizona workers’ comp lawyers have the legal experience and proven professional expertise that you can trust. If you or your loved one was hurt on the job because your employer failed to follow the required safety laws, we are here to help. Call us at (877) 370-5788 or contact us online for a no fee, no obligation review of your case. Our team fights for the rights of injured workers in Phoenix, Tucson, and throughout all of Arizona.