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A Worker’s Guide to OSHA Regulations and the Right to a Safe Workplace

Osha work safety

What is OSHA?

In the early 1900’s, factories were dangerous places. There were no regulations to protect workers from chemicals, dusts and dangerous machines. In 1913, Congress created the Department of Labor. One of the Department’s main purposes was “to improve worker safety.” Conditions for some workers improved, but there were still many occupations where workers were routinely and unnecessarily exposed to dangerous conditions and health hazards.

In 1965, the Public Health Service published a report called “Protecting the Health of Eighty Million Americans”. The report described a strong link between chemicals in the workplace and cancer. In 1967, the Department of Labor created a plan for a national job safety and health program. In 1968, President Johnson told Congress that each year more than 14,000 workers were killed and 2.2 million injured on the job; he called on Congress to enact standards similar to those proposed by the Department of Labor. It took several years, but in 1970, President Nixon signed the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

The Occupational Safety and Health Act required that employers provide all workers with safe working conditions free from known dangers. It also created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration or OSHA. OSHA is responsible for setting and enforcing workplace safety and health standards and providing information and training to both employers and employees. Some standards apply to all workplaces, while others are specific to certain industries, such as agriculture, construction, maritime or longshoring.

What Do OSHA Standards Cover?

  • Worker exposure to biological and chemical
  • The preparation, handling, and testing of workplace chemicals
  • Safety at construction sites
  • Safety of maritime and longshore workers
  • Ergonomic standards for office workers
  • Safety and health standards for emergency responders

These standards have made a huge difference to American workers. In 1970, 11 out of every 100 workers reported a serious workplace injury or work-related illness. Today it is only 4 out of 100.

Four out of 100 Americans Sustain Injuries at Work

Four out of 100 is a huge improvement, yet too many workers get hurt on the job. In 2013, 4,585 people died at work. Many of these deaths occurred because employers did not follow OSHA rules including:

  • Recognizing hazards
  • Providing workers with access to proper safety equipment
  • Tools or equipment in safe working condition
  • Employee training to safely address on-the-job hazards
  • Proper supervision

Is Your Workplace Unsafe?

You have the right to know about all potential hazards in your workplace. Your employer should provide you with training that addresses those hazards and the steps to take in an emergency.

If you feel that your workplace is unsafe, you have a right to file a confidential complaint with OSHA. You can also request that OSHA inspect your workplace for any violations. If there is an investigation or inspection, you may request a report of the results.

You also have the right to refuse to work if you feel your life is being put in danger. You cannot be fired or retaliated against for reporting unsafe working conditions or other OSHA violations asserting any of your OSHA rights.

Your Right to a Safe Workplace: Do You Have a Workplace Safety Lawsuit?

Compliance with OSHA standards can prevent workplace injuries. But many employers put profit and productivity before worker safety.

Under most conditions, you cannot sue your employer over a work-related injury. However, you may be able to file a claim against your employer if an OSHA violation led to your injury. If this case, you may be eligible for both workers’ compensation and additional damages such as lost wages and pain and suffering.

If you sustained injuries because your supervisor withheld information about hazards or knowingly violated OSHA regulations, call the workplace injury attorneys at Ostroff Injury Law. Our attorneys will be happy to investigate your claim and discuss your rights. The consultation is free.

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