Your Safety at Work -- OSHA and State Law
OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) is the government organization responsible for the safety of employees in the workplace. OSHA was established by the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 and works to prevent work-related injuries, illnesses and deaths. OSHA also helps draft new regulations as well as enforce existing safety regulations.
In addition to OSHA, most states have an OSHA equivalent set of laws, which must grant at least the level of protection offered by OSHA. Combined, OSHA and your state laws offer many protections against unsafe working conditions, and establish remedies for when workplace accidents do happen.
Your Safety at Work -- What OSHA Covers
While OSHA covers almost any topic regarding work-related injury, illness or death, here are the largest and most common areas that OSHA regulates:
- Biological agents: OSHA regulations cover exposure to biological and chemical agents while working and include everything from Anthrax to Swine Flu.
- Chemical hazards and safety: In addition to biological agents, OSHA extensively regulates the preparation, training, handling and testing of chemical agents.
- Construction safety: Due to the inherently dangerous nature of construction work, safety on construction jobs is one of OSHA's primary concerns.
- Maritime safety: Like the construction industry, due to inherent concerns regarding the safety of maritime workers, OSHA creates and enforces regulations to safeguard workers in the maritime industry.
- Ergonomics: Although OSHA originated out of concern for injury in industries like the construction industry, with the increasing amount of workers at "desk jobs", OSHA also regulates ergonomic standards for standard office jobs.
- Emergency preparedness: OSHA, in conjunction with similar state agencies, set and implement national safety and health standards for emergency responders.
These are the largest topics that OSHA covers, but OSHA also covers many smaller topics, including air quality and tobacco usage.
Your Safety at Work -- What Rights does OSHA Give You
OSHA grants workers a host of rights designed to protect workers from injury, illness and death. Here is a sampling of your rights under OSHA:
- You cannot be fired or retaliated against for rightfully asserting any of your OSHA rights.
- If your workplace poses an imminent threat to your life, you have the right to refuse work.
- Your employer should inform you of your OSHA rights.
- You can get training from your employer on the health and safety standards that apply to you.
- You can request information from your employer regarding OSHA standards that apply to you.
- You can ask your employer to cure any OSHA violations without fear of retaliation.
- You can file a complaint with OSHA regarding workplace safety concerns.
- You can request that OSHA inspect your workplace for any violations.
- You are entitled to see the results of any such investigation or inspection.
Your Safety at Work -- What to Do If You are Injured
If you are injured on the job, here are some of the basic steps you should follow as quickly as possible to avoid further injury to yourself and others:
- Seek medical attention: It goes without saying that your first priority is to seek any medical help that you require.
- Notify your employer of dangerous conditions: The next step is to notify your employer of the injury and of any dangerous conditions that still exist.
- File a claim for workers' compensation: Immediately file your workers' compensation claim to be compensated for your medical bills and other losses suffered as a result of the injury.
- If the danger poses an imminent threat, call OSHA: If your employer doesn't immediately remedy a hazard that poses an imminent threat to other workers, call OSHA at 1-800-321-OSHA.
- If your employer doesn't remedy the danger, file a complaint with OSHA: If your employer doesn't remedy the threat to worker safety, file a formal complaint with OSHA and/or any related state agency. OSHA maintains a list of such state agencies, so for further information see (www.osha.gov).
- If you are retaliated against or fired, contact OSHA and consider a lawyer: OSHA explicitly protects workers from being retaliated against or fired. If your employer harasses you, demotes you or otherwise retaliates against you, immediately contact OSHA and consider hiring a lawyer.