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Despite voluntary OSHA program, workers' compensation still vital

Officials at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration are touting a new safety program designed to reduce oil-field fatalities in Region 6, which includes Louisiana. In 2011 and 2012, some 73 oil-field workers lost their lives to accidents in the Region. However, the new program is voluntary and some are wondering if it truly will have a significant impact on preventing injuries and deaths. In the meantime, workers' compensation benefits will continue to play a crucial role in helping families of oil-field workers who lose their lives to a workplace accident.

A key element of the voluntary program is referred to as a stand down policy. This means that participating employers will agree to stop work for anywhere from a half hour to an hour for the purpose of specifically addressing company safety procedures. The time can be used to educate both managers and workers of important safety measures on the job.

One news reporter asked that if the program was really going to reduce the number of lives lost to oil-field accidents, why not make the stand down policy a specific requirement? An OSHA spokesman observed that the voluntary program could be put into effect rapidly. However, Congress would have to amend the law to make the measures mandatory.

While the voluntary program has a goal of preventing all fatalities, it will take some time to see if the new approach will have much effect. Part of that will depend on how many companies participate and to what extent. In the meantime, workers' compensation remains a vital benefit to employees hurt on the job, and to the surviving families of those killed in a work accident. Those facing these important issues in Louisiana can take comfort in knowing that help is available to navigate the sometimes confusing claims bureaucracy in order to ensure that all available benefits are received.

Source: CBS 7, "New OSHA Program to Fight Rising Oilfield Deaths, But Will it Work? ," Matt Rist, Feb. 4, 2013

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