Police officers and firefighters who file injury claims in the Lower Hudson Valley often collect tax-free salaries for years while local municipalities and the state wrangle over who ultimately picks up the tab. More than 15 percent of the state's first responders end up retiring on a state-funded disability pension. That number is even higher in Westchester, Putnam and Rockland counties, where one in four is awarded the pension after being found too badly hurt to ever work again.
The Journal News examined thousands of records from more than 70 area police and fire departments, finding that taxpayers in the three counties spent more than $163 million over the past decade to pay injured public safety employees unable to work. That's enough to cover the salaries of all police officers and firefighters in 13 local departments for 10 years.
A dispute between the City of Baltimore and a firefighter-paramedic with breast cancer spotlights a high-stakes debate over a law that presumes certain cancers are related to fighting fires. Firefighters say the provisions — which can lead to awards exceeding $500,000, including medical bills — rightly reflect the fact that they can encounter dangerous fumes and chemicals on the job.
But governments like Baltimore's, which spent $49 million last year on workers' compensation, call the law unreasonably generous and too difficult to challenge in hearings or in court. Officials also point to recent research from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health that casts doubt on whether there is a link between firefighting and most of the cancers listed in Maryland's law.
Jones is one of hundreds of city educators whose violent and traumatic encounters with students have led them to seek — and often receive — compensation for mental and physical injuries, a Baltimore Sun investigation of workers’ compensation claims has found. Those claims provide a behind-the-scenes look at violence that is rarely documented in school system reports.
School employees report more injuries than those in any city agency except the Police Department. In the last fiscal year, more than 300 claims were related to assaults or run-ins with students — more than a third of the school system’s total claims.
After six workers were killed in a massive gas explosion at the Kleen Energy plant in Middletown four years ago, federal investigators tallied hundreds of violations at the site and issued $16.6 million in penalties against more than a dozen companies — the third-largest workplace-safety fine in the nation's history.
But in the years since the blast, the federal government agreed to deals that will wipe out as much as 88 percent of the fines levied against the companies it determined were responsible for the explosion, a Courant review of documents related to the case has revealed.
“Nearly 180 people — including 18 teenagers — have been killed in grain-related entrapments at federally regulated facilities across 34 states since 1984, records show”
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