Internal Revenue Service employees file more than 800 new injury claims each year, according to a new report.
The report, from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, found the majority of IRS employee injuries can be attributed to accidents such as slips, trips and falls. For most of the accidents, the IRS can do little to prevent the injury from occurring. The report acknowledged the IRS’s process for responding to workplace injuries and preventing them is generally effective, though improvements can be made.
TIGTA analyzed injury claims for fiscal years 2013 through 2015 and could not find any significant trends of injuries recurring at specific geographic locations or types of jobs, or by employees who telecommute from home.
TIGTA inspectors personally observed several IRS facilities, representing more than 20 percent of the injury claims filed between fiscal years 2013 and 2015. They found most of the injuries were caused by accidents that could not be prevented, and the issues that contributed to those injuries that could have been prevented have since been remedied. Out of a sample of 349 injury claims, TIGTA observed locations where 253 of the injuries occurred. They found that only 13 of the hazards have not been addressed and could potentially affect other employees.
However, TIGTA found that 123 of the 349 claims (35 percent, that is) did not include any information about whether a safety investigation was performed after an employee was injured, even though such investigations are required. In addition, IRS safety officers did not always receive a notification when a workplace injury occurred. In such cases, TIGTA said it was not apparent what actions the safety officers took to resolve the hazards because the information was not documented in the IRS’s workers compensation database.
TIGTA also found that 369 out of 564 IRS buildings (or 65 percent) lacked any documentation of a safety inspection in at least one year during the period from fiscal years 2013 through 2015, even though annual safety inspections are required by federal law. The safety inspections are supposed to review different building features to make sure they are in working order, including lighting, walkways, elevators, shipping and receiving areas, parking lots and exit doors.
The report recommended the IRS should address the two hazards identified by TIGTA during its site visits and determine whether to revise IRS guidance to reinforce the need for safety officers to perform and document safety investigations after an employee has been injured. The IRS should also identify a way to notify safety officers when an employee has filed a workers compensation claim, TIGTA suggested, and the IRS should ensure safety inspections are performed annually as required.
In response to the report, IRS management agreed with all four of TIGTA’s recommendations and to take action to correct the findings. “We are committed to improving processes to respond to and prevent workplace injuries as well as improving workplace safety,” wrote Kevin Q. McIver, chief of agency-wide shared services at the IRS.