You Have the Right to a Safe Workplace
Too many workers are killed on the job in the U.S. To combat the risks of more dangerous professions, Congress developed the Occupational Safety and Health Act. Under the act, employees have certain rights—and employers have certain responsibilities—when it comes to a safe and healthy workplace. But unfortunately, many employers cut corners to save costs, and thousands of workers suffer unnecessary hazards as a result.
If you believe your employer has violated the standards of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, contact an experienced lawyer as soon as possible. Maggiano, DiGirolamo & Lizzi have the skills and the experience you need to get the compensation you deserve.
What is OSHA?
OSHA stands for The Occupational Safety and Health Act, which was enacted by Congress to ensure safe and healthy working environments for all working men and women. The act created a federal agency called the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and it also dictates that each state can run its own safety and health programs (as long as the equivalent state programs are at least as effective as the federal program).
The act covers employees and employers in all 50 states, except for employees of the state or federal government; federal employees have their own separate section under OSHA, but state and local government employees are only covered in states with OSHA-approved plans. The Occupational Safety and Health Act applies to employees in a wide range of fields, including construction, manufacturing, agriculture, longshoring, organized labor, private education, charity and disaster relief, and medicine.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has two functions: to set safety standards and conduct inspections to make sure employers are living up to those standards. The OSHA standards are grouped into four categories—general industry, construction, maritime, and agriculture—and even when OSHA has not set a specific standard for a certain hazard, employers must follow the “general duty” clause; this states that employers are required to provide a place of employment that is free from recognized hazards.
What Rights Do Employees Have Under OSHA?
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s primary duty is to protect American workers. Part of that protection is guaranteeing employees certain rights in the workplace.
Under OSHA, employees are entitled to a number of workplace rights, including:
- Information about safety and health hazards in the workplace
- The right to request an OSHA inspection if a violation of standards is suspected
- The right to submit a written request to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health for information regarding potentially toxic substances used in the workplace
- Participation in OSHA workplace inspections
- Privacy, or the right to have their names withheld from employers if they file a written complaint
- Refusal to perform work that is unsafe or poses a health risk
- The right to contest the length of time OSHA allows for correcting violations of standards
What Responsibilities do Employers Have Under OSHA?
Just as OSHA lays out employees’ rights, it sets the standards for employers’ responsibilities. Under OSHA, employers are obligated to:
- Inform employees of OSHA standards in regard to the workplace.
- Prominently display information about job-related illnesses and injuries
- Display the “Job Safety and Health: It’s the Law” poster, which contains information about rights and responsibilities, in a prominent location. States with their own state plans, like New Jersey and New York, have a different poster that employers are required to display.
- Provide information about any hazardous chemicals used in the workplace.
- Provide adequate safety equipment to their employees.
Employers are required to record work-related injuries and illnesses that result in death, days away from work, restricted work activity or job transfer, medical treatment beyond first aid, and loss of consciousness.
Employers are also required to record any significant work-related injuries or illnesses that involve:
- Chronic irreversible disease
- Fractured or cracked bones
- Punctured eardrums
- Any needle-stick injury or cut from a sharp object that is contaminated with someone else’s blood or potentially infectious material
- Any case requiring an employee to be medically removed under the requirements of an OSHA health standard
- Work-related cases involving hearing loss
- Tuberculosis infections as evidenced by a positive skin test or diagnosis by a medical professional
What Are the Most Common OSHA Violations?
After workplace inspections, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration keeps records of citations and violations that occurred. The top ten most frequently cited violations are:
- Fall protection:employer failed to provide adequate fall protection systems, including making sure working and walking systems have the adequate strength and structural integrity; installing a guardrail system, safety net system, or personal fall arrest system for all walking or working surfaces more than 6 feet off the ground; or other industry-specific protection standard.
- Hazard communication:employer failed to identify hazardous chemicals in the work area, failed to appropriately label and ship certain chemicals, or provide safety information for employees.
- Scaffolding:employer failed to ensure that each scaffold and scaffold component is capable of supporting its own weight and at least four times the maximum intended load applied to it.
- Respiratory protection:employer failed to put engineering control measures or respirators in place to control harmful dusts, fogs, fumes, mists, gases, smokes, sprays, or vapors to prevent employees from breathing contaminated air.
- Electrical or wiring methods:employer failed to appropriately maintain electrical systems and wires, as to minimize the risk of employee electrocution or shock.
- Powered industrial trucks:employer failed to meet certain safety requirements related to fire protection, maintenance, use, and design of fork trucks, tractors, platform lift trucks, motorized hand trucks, and other specialized industrial trucks.
- Ladders:employer failed to ensure the ladder could support industry-specific loads without failure.
- Lockout or tagout:employer failed to appropriately service or maintain machines and equipment that could suddenly release stored energy and harm employees.
- Electrical or general requirements:employer failed to keep electrical equipment free from recognized hazards likely to cause physical harm or death.
- Machine guarding:employer failed to properly install or maintain machine guards, including barrier guards, two-hand tripping devices, and electronic safety devices.
Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney
Since 1970, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has succeeded in cutting workplace fatalities by more than 65 percent (as U.S. employment nearly doubled). There were approximately 38 worker deaths per day in 1970, compared to 12 per day in 2012.
But unfortunately, there is still more work to be done. Until all employees can enjoy a safe and healthy workplace, employers should be held to the highest possible standard. If you suffered an injury as a result of unmarked hazards or dangerous conditions at your workplace, contact Maggiano, DiGirolamo & Lizzi today. The attorneys at Maggiano, DiGirolamo & Lizzi have eight decades’ worth of experience in the law, both in and out of court—and a track record of success to prove it. Call (201) 585-9111 or fill out an online form to schedule your free and confidential consultation.