Today, many people take the right to a safe workplace for granted. Federal and state laws require employers to meet basic safety standards to ensure employees don’t face unnecessary risks when doing their jobs. Most employers take care to follow these laws, and workplace accidents and deaths have fallen significantly because of them.
However, some workplaces still prioritize speed and money over keeping people safe. Anyone who works at these locations is at unnecessary risk of workplace accidents that could affect the rest of their lives. If your employer isn’t taking the basic precautions required by law and you get hurt, you may have grounds to take legal action.
OSHA and Workplace Safety Laws
The broadest and best-known workplace safety regulations are put in place by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which is part of the U.S. Department of Labor. OSHA is responsible for determining what constitutes a workplace health and safety hazard nationally and provides employers with rules regarding mandatory and suggested precautions to protect workers. According to OSHA, employees have the following rights:
- To receive relevant health and safety training in a language you understand
- To work with machines and in an environment that is safe
- To be given the required safety equipment according to your workplace’s risks
- To be protected from harmful chemicals
- To request an OSHA inspection, speak to the inspector, and file complaints without suffering retaliation
- To report workplace injuries to OSHA
- To view the results of inspections and records of injuries at your workplace
In turn, employers have responsibilities to their employees to ensure these rights are protected. Employer responsibilities include, but are not limited to:
- Complying with OSHA safety regulations for the industry and specific activities being performed
- Regularly updating policies and procedures when OSHA standards change
- Clearly labeling potential hazards
- Training workers to perform their jobs safely and healthily
- Providing and maintaining safe and functional equipment, tools, and safety gear for all workers
If an employer violates these responsibilities, it must correct the violation as soon as it becomes aware of the problem. Failing to do so can result in serious fines or even the forced closure of the work site until all violations are fixed. In addition, if an organization does not take reasonable care to follow OSHA standards, it may be directly liable for any injuries workers receive on the job due to these safety hazards.
Common Workplace Safety Violations
OSHA keeps track of the most reported workplace safety issues. These reports come from inspectors and individual workers who notice issues within their working environment. The most common safety hazards employers fail to properly protect employees from include:
- Fall risks: Potential fall hazards comprise four of the top six most commonly cited standards in OSHA reports. Employers may not provide construction workers with appropriate fall protection, such as harnesses and guide lines when working at great heights. They may provide unsafe ladders and scaffolding or set them up incorrectly. Most importantly, they may fail to train workers on how to avoid falls by using protective equipment and scaffolding correctly.
- Respiratory damage: The second most common issue is a lack of respiratory protection from dangerous substances. This may include allowing employees to work in heavily dusty areas without masks or using toxic chemicals that could damage the lungs when other alternatives are available.
- Impacts to the head, face, and eyes: Face and eye protection are critical to avoiding permanent disfiguration or blindness in many fields. For instance, if an employer does not require workers to use safety goggles when working with certain acidic substances, it puts the workers at risk of permanent vision loss.
- Poorly maintained machinery: Mechanical equipment, from power tools to factory machines to industrial vehicles, can pose a significant safety threat if it is not used and maintained correctly. If an employer does not perform appropriate maintenance and training, workers can suffer serious injuries, dismemberment, or even death when the equipment fails.
Employer Liability for Unsafe Workplace Conditions
You have the right to safe working conditions, even if your employer doesn’t acknowledge them. If you have been injured in a workplace accident because your employer failed to follow OSHA standards, they may be liable for your losses. If you can prove that your employer was responsible for your injuries, you may be eligible for workers’ compensation payments.
However, some employers attempt to deny workers’ compensation claims to save money. Some particularly unscrupulous employers may even retaliate against you for filing a workers’ comp claim and fire you. If you are fired for demanding workers’ comp, you have been wrongfully terminated.
Terminating your job does not exempt your employer from liability for your injuries. It also gives you grounds to take legal action because they retaliated against you for performing a legally protected activity. If this situation sounds familiar, it’s in your best interest to immediately reach out to consult with an experienced employment law attorney.
Legal Counsel for Victims of Workers’ Comp Retaliation
Employers trying to escape liability for unsafe conditions cannot fire you because you made a workers’ comp claim. That’s considered retaliation, and it’s illegal. At the Law Offices of Todd M. Friedman, PC, we have decades of experience assisting workers like you who have lost their jobs and health because of their employers’ unlawful behavior.Our skilled attorneys are available to represent you in your wrongful termination lawsuit. We are proud to take aggressive action on behalf of our clients and pursue just compensation for the losses you’ve suffered. Learn more about how we can help you seek damages for wrongful termination after a workplace injury by scheduling your consultation today.