What is OSHA and What if My Employer Doesn’t Follow It?
If you’re injured at work or notice hazards that could cause an accident, you may wonder what your next steps should be. It’s important to recognize that OSHA works to provide many U.S. employees with safe working environments. If your employer violates national health and safety standards you may be entitled to compensation. Read this article to learn more about OSHA and the protections it provides. As a personal injury and accident firm in Las Vegas, De Castroverde can help you navigate your OSHA claim and hold your employer accountable for their lack of compliance.
What Is OSHA?
OSHA is an acronym that stands for Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Richard Nixon signed the Occupational Safety and Health Act in 1970 to officially establish this agency that protects employees in their workplaces. Its mission is to create safer working environments that result in better health, increased productivity, and fewer costs for all parties. OSHA accomplishes these objectives by creating and enforcing various standards for hazards like asbestos, bloodborne pathogens, and lead.
Who Does OSHA Protect?
OSHA covers most private sector employers and their workers in all 50 states and U.S. jurisdictions like the District of Columbia. These parties receive protections directly through the federal agency or OSHA-approved state plans. While OSHA applies to all federal government agencies, state and local government employees only have OSHA protections if they work in a state with an OSHA-approved state program. OSHA doesn’t cover the following parties:
- Immediate family members of farm workers.
- Self-employed individuals.
- Employees who receive protections from a different federal agency (for example, the Department of Energy or the Mine Safety and Health Administration).
What Are OSHA Standards?
OSHA has unique standards for four main industries: construction, agriculture, maritime, and the “general industry,” which refers to any other field outside the first three. These different safety standards are required because of the diverse hazards encountered in specific industries. For instance, OSHA defines the four major types of construction accidents as falls, electrocutions, being struck by objects, and being caught between equipment. Maritime workers are also subject to these risks, though fires and exposure to hazardous chemicals are also common. Agricultural workers may encounter animal-acquired infections and heat-related illnesses more frequently.
Here are some examples of OSHA standards that help employers prevent injuries and illnesses:
- Placement of guards on dangerous machines.
- Allocation of protective gear and safety equipment.
- Monitoring the permissible exposure limit and excursion limit of asbestos fiber in the air.
- Requiring access to clean drinking water and sanitation facilities on job sites.
- Requiring medical examinations if a worker was exposed to excessive asbestos levels.
How Does OSHA Ensure Safe Work Environments?
OSHA ensures safe working environments by holding employers and their employees accountable. The agency requires employers to prominently display the official OSHA poster that describes relevant rights and responsibilities. Additionally, employers must:
- Provide adequate safety training.
- Inform employees about potential working hazards.
- Perform tests such as air sampling according to OSHA standards.
- Maintain accurate records of work-related accidents.
- Provide personal protective equipment to workers at the employer’s expense.
- Notify OSHA within eight hours of a work-related fatality or within 24 hours of work-related inpatient hospitalization, amputation, or loss of an eye.
OSHA enforces its standards through highly trained compliance officers who inspect workplaces via on-site visits or telephone investigations. These inspections occur randomly and are focused on investigating complaints and targeting industries that have high accident rates. If OSHA discovers a violation of safety standards, they may take the appropriate disciplinary measures and ensure the elimination of the hazard.
What Should You Do If Your Employer Violates OSHA?
While random inspections help to ensure employer compliance with OSHA, you may still be a victim of health or safety violations. Taking action can keep you safe and ensure you receive the compensation you deserve, and prevent others from facing work-related injuries. If you believe your employer is in violation of OSHA standards, consider alerting them of the hazards or filing a safety and health complaint.
These complaints are confidential and result in inspections to identify potential compliance issues. Try to file a complaint as soon as you notice a hazard or obtain an injury resulting from a dangerous work environment. OSHA makes the process easy by allowing you to submit a complaint via an online form, fax, letter, email, phone call, or in-person visit to a local office.
What If My Employer Retaliates After I File an OSHA Complaint?
Federal law protects you from retaliation after you file an OSHA complaint. If your employer withholds wages or transfers, demotes, or fires you because of your complaint, you can file a whistleblower complaint. An OSHA investigation into the matter can protect your rights and ensure employees can continue holding their employers accountable for providing safe work environments.
Why Hire a Lawyer for Your OSHA Complaint?
If you want to file an OSHA complaint, hiring a lawyer who’s familiar with the complicated federal health and safety standards can be beneficial. They can help you identify the exact standards your employer violated and improve the chances of OSHA following up with your claim. A lawyer can also represent you in court to ensure you obtain the maximum compensation.
If you were injured at work, you might have to file for workers’ compensation as most employers are immune from personal injury lawsuits. However, you may be able to bring a personal injury case against your employer if the criminal activity, gross negligence, or intentional misconduct led to your injuries. Contact an expert De Castroverde attorney today for a consultation. We’re ready to help you build your case and determine if other parties, such as a manufacturer of unsafe equipment, may also be at fault.
U.S. employees are fortunate to have OSHA, which guarantees safe work environments. If you believe your employer is violating these federal standards or if you were injured because of workplace hazards, it’s important to know your rights. Contact the De Castroverde team in Las Vegas today for the expert legal advice you deserve.