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Workers' Comp & What Employers Cover

Written by Staff Writer

Employees have the right to be safe at work, and OSHA standards require employers to provide a safe and hazard-free workplace for employees. Here are some important things to know about worker's compensation labor laws.

Office of Workers' Compensation Programs (OWCP)

This Department of Labor program covers federal workers (and their dependents) injured at work or those with an occupational disease in these four areas: wage replacement benefits, medical treatment, vocational rehabilitation, and other benefits.

To find out which of the Acts covers you, visit FirstStep Employment Law Advisor.

Who Do Workers' Compensation Laws Cover?

Under OSHA's jurisdiction, OWCP protects most United States workers. This includes state and local government workers, federal government workers, and those who work in the private sector.

However, OSHA laws generally do not apply to self-employed people or immediate family members of farmers who do not hire employees outside the family. OSHA does not cover some workplace hazards as another federal agency regulates them.

Workers Rights

Under federal OSHA law, employees have the following rights in the workplace:

  • Ask OSHA to inspect the workplace
  • Use their rights under the law without retaliation or discrimination
  • Receive information and training about hazards, methods to prevent harm, and the OSHA standards that apply to their workplace in a language they can understand
  • Obtain copies of test results done to find hazards in the workplace
  • Review records of work-related injuries and illnesses
  • Obtain copies of one's medical records
  • Report work-related injuries and illnesses

Employer Responsibilities

In addition to providing employees with a safe and healthy work environment, employers must comply with these OSHA standards:

  • Inform employees about hazards through training, labels, alarms, color-coded systems, chemical information sheets, and other methods
  • Keep accurate records of work-related injuries and illnesses
  • Perform tests in the workplace, such as OSHA's air sampling requirements
  • Provide hearing exams or other medical tests required by OSHA standards
  • Post OSHA citations, injury and illness data, and the OSHA poster in the workplace where workers will see them
  • Notify OSHA of all work-related fatalities within eight hours, and all work-related inpatient hospitalizations, amputations, and losses of an eye within 24 hours
  • No discrimination or retaliation against a worker for using their rights under the law

Workers Compensation Acts

There are four major compensation acts that apply to certain industries and situations, which are follows.

1: Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act (DLHWC)

This OWCP administered Act covers part- or full-time maritime employees and employers who received injuries or died while on the United States navigable waters or adjoining waterfronts, including harbor work. It provides compensation benefits for the employee and his or her family. The DLHWC is usually uninvolved in the actual compensation of the worker and serves as a more technical role, ensuring dispute resolution and delivery of benefits.

DLHWC Exclusions

DLHWC excludes individuals employed solely to perform clerical, security, or data processing; employees who perform camp, club, restaurant, museum, retail outlet, or recreational operation; employees not engaged in construction, replacement, or expansion of a marina; those employed by suppliers, vendors, or transporters; those working for temporary maritime employer; those infrequently engaged in work this Act covers; aquaculture workers; employees who repair, dismantle, and build recreational vessels under sixty-five feet in length; small vessel workers exempted with a Secretary of Labor certification; those told by master to unload or repair vessels under eighteen tons net; and United States government employees.

DLHWC Injury and Death Benefits

Payments for an injury or death benefits cannot exceed the national, weekly, wage average by 200% or fall below 50% of the average. For injuries, compensation is withheld for the first three days-unless the employee disability last over 14 days-and will receive payment after 14 days. The following expenses may be covered:

  • Medical care: all medical services required for an employee related injury, including travel coasts
  • Disability Compensation: for permanent and temporary injuries, employee will receive compensation every two weeks for a time disclosed by the nature of injury. Compensation amount is lowered when employee can work partially. If employee is unable to work (temporarily or permanently), he or she receives 2/3 of average weekly pay.
  • Rehabilitation: an allowanced capped at $25.00 per week for vocational rehabilitation
  • Death benefits: a widow or widower receives 50% of average weekly pay with a 16 2/3% additional of weekly pay for one or more children for life or until remarriage. Eligible survivors-those dependent on employee- and spouse receive the death benefits, which includes funeral expenses up to $3,000.

If injured, employees must notify employer, obtain medical treatment, give written notice within 30 days to employer, and file a compensation claim Form LS-203 within a year of injury. For more information, contact Longshore District Office.

2: Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act (EEOICPA)

This Act covers past and currently employees of the Department of Energy (DOE), predecessor agencies, vendors, contractors, and subcontractors diagnosed with a disease that resulted from radiation exposure. EEOICPA also covers those awarded benefits from the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA).

EEOICPA Compensation

The following compensations are received on the following criteria.

If cancer developed after working at a Department of Energy covered facility Compensation of $150,000 and medical expenses:

  • DOE employees with radiation-induced cancer
  • DOE contractors and subcontractors
  • Atomic weapon employers if Employee is a Special Exposure Cohort (SEC) member

DOE employees exposed to beryllium at a DOE facility and developed Chronic Beryllium Disease, and for DOE employees who worked over 250 days mining tunnels for nuclear tests in Alaska and Nevada who developed chronic silicosis may also be covered.

Family of deceased employees may be eligible for $50,000.

Compensation of $250,000:

Determined by wage loss, impairment, and survivorship, DOE contractors, subcontractors, and employees who, due to exposure to toxic substances at DOC facilities, developed an illness are covered. Ore transporters, uranium minors, and millers many also be eligible.

Wage loss is determined by the number of years an employee could not work due to a DOE related illness. For each year counted (years where is employee is over 65 do not), $10,000 is given when wages were less than 25-50% of the Average Annual Wage (AAW) and $15,000 for each year during which wages were less than 50% of the AAW.

Employees earn $2,500 for each percent of the body impaired.

Survivor benefit: at least $125,000 compensation as well as $0 for less than 10 years of wage loss, $25,000 for 10-19 years of wage loss, and $50,000 for 20 years of wage loss.

Compensation cannot exceed $175,000.

3: Division of Federal Employees' Compensation (DFEC)

DFEC covers medical expenses and compensation benefits for federal and postal workers who suffered employment-related injuries and occupational diseases. DFEC administers several Acts, including the Federal Employees' Compensation Act's webpage. To see specific qualifications and eligible benefits, contact a State Workers' Compensation Official webpage.

4: Black Lung Benefits Act

Part of the Division of Coal Mine Workers' Compensation (DCMWC), this Act covers coal miners and coal miner survivors who suffered from a disease attributed to their employment. Due to a complication in the Act's implementation, parities must always disclose medical information in a benefits claim and clarify the obligation of coal mine operator to pay benefits and the supplemental report of examining physician. Henceforth, determining the available compensation can prove tricky and technical; anyone seeking compensation should contact his or her district office. Complaints for qualified employees can be filed at Division of Coal Mine Workers' Compensation's website.

OSHA regional offices are located throughout the United States, and OSHA-approved state programs apply in many states across the country. To learn more about workers' compensation rights and responsibilities, visit the OSHA Workers page.