The death of a public sector worker near Kansas City throws a harsh light onto a serious issue in workplace safety: Government employees in Missouri have no legal right to a safe workplace.
The implications for workers’ compensation law in the state are dire.
Liberty Public Worker Dies After Train Hits Truck
The incident occurred this September, when two workers for the Parks and Recreation Department in the town of Liberty were hurt when their pickup truck was hit by an oncoming train. The accident occurred at a railroad crossing inaccessible to the public, where there were no lowering arms or warning lights.
Both workers were seriously hurt in the crash. One died of his injuries.
Public Workers Left Uncovered by Workplace Safety Law
The Occupational Safety and Health Act is a federal law that regulates the kinds of dangers that workers are allowed to face, while on the job. It requires employers to take actions to ensure a safe workplace for their employees.
However, the law only applies to private employers, not state or local governments. 26 states in the U.S., however, have passed laws that extend the law’s protections to public workers.
Missouri is not one of them.
Public Sector More Dangerous Than Private
The lack of protection is not a small issue. A common misconception is that public sector workers just sit in an office. The reality is that many of them hold some of the most dangerous jobs in the state, including:
- Garbage collection
- Road construction and repair
- Nursing care in psychiatric hospitals
- Prison guards
- Animal control
Numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics back up the idea that these are dangerous jobs. For every 10,000 full-time workers, 91.7 private sector workers suffered nonfatal injuries or illnesses that required days away from work in 2016. For workers in state government, this number was 151.6 workers. For local government workers – like the Liberty Parks and Recreation workers – that number was 161.8.
Unsafe Worksites Mean More Hurt Workers
Without the Occupational Safety and Health Act to prevent unsafe workplaces in the public sector, local and state governments in Missouri can put their workers into serious and preventable dangers. There are also no inspections that can detect unsafe conditions in the workplace, or the threat of citations to pressure employers to make the fixes necessary to keep everyone safe on the job.
St. Joseph Workers’ Compensation Attorneys at the Smith Law Office
With public sector workers left vulnerable to unsafe conditions, and little help to prevent a workplace accident from happening, it should come as no surprise when terrible things happen. When workers get hurt on the job, they need to rely on workers’ compensation coverage. In many cases, this can take a personal injury lawyer.