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The significant safety risks to Georgia's public workers

At the end of last month, Georgia media outlets delivered the shocking and tragic news that a Virginia Beach city worker quit his job and then a few hours later opened fire on coworkers. He killed 11 city employees and wounded four others, as well as a police officer, in one of the deadliest cases of workplace violence in recent history.

While workplace shootings are rare, they can leave public employees worried about on-the-job safety. Public sector employees are right to be concerned about violence in often understaffed facilities. Of course, it’s not only workplace violence that puts them at risk, but also exposure to inherently dangerous situations for some public employees. Think of the risk of injuries to workers such as firefighters, police officers, EMTs and others who routinely enter situations most people are eager to avoid.

“There’s a wide range of hazards that public employees are subject to,” said Marcy Goldstein-Gelb, executive director of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health.

Back in 1970 when the federal government’s Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) was created, states were given the option of creating their own versions that would set safety standards and conduct workplace compliance checks for public-sector employees and others. It should be noted that the federal government’s OSHA does not set standards or conduct workplace accident investigations for public sector employees.

Unfortunately, Georgia is among the 22 states that opted not to create its own OSHA-approved plan it could then administer. “It’s well-documented that OSHA standards save lives, so to fail to enact these measures subjects public employees to heightened risk of injury or death,” said Goldstein-Gelb.

Fortunately, injured public workers can be eligible for Georgia workers’ compensation benefits that include medical care and partial wage replacement. Please contact a qualified workers’ comp attorney if you have been denied those critical benefits.

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