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How will the government shutdown affect workers' compensation?

When our politicians in the nation's capital could not iron out a budget by Sept. 30, the federal government "shut down" on Oct. 1. In practice, this is a partial shutdown, meaning that many federal agencies needed to close their doors while others needed to scale back operations to maintain only operations deemed essential.

This leaves many workers wondering how exactly this will affect them in terms of their workers' compensation cases and workplace safety issues. The news on those issues is mixed: good and bad.

First, let's start with the good news. The vast majority of workers' compensation cases and claims are handled at the state level. Therefore, workers' compensation claims filed in New York will move forward, and the federal government's shutdown will not have much of a direct impact on those state-level claims.

However, the news is not good when it comes to workplace safety. The U.S. Department of Labor will be affected by the government shutdown, and the Department of Labor has a very important function in making sure workplaces are safe for employees. According to recent reports, the Labor Department will only get to keep about 18 percent of its workers during the shutdown.

Specifically, it is the Occupational Safety and Health Administration that is the agency within the Labor Department that enforces workplace safety standards. OSHA normally performs safety inspections of workplaces, and many of these inspections are preventative in nature. Under a government shutdown, however, OSHA will have to stop performing all inspections except those that involve workplace deaths or immediate dangers to workplace safety.

As to how long the shutdown will last is uncertain at this point. However, what is certain is that workplace safety and workplace injuries will continue to be a major concern while the politicians finalize a budget. 

Source: The Huffington Post, "Government Shutdown To Hit Labor Department Workplace Safety, EEOC Discrimination Investigations," Dave Jamieson, Oct. 1, 2013

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