Precaution is always the best cure when it comes to workplace health and safety. Unfortunately, many employers neglect the safety of their workers in order to save money or increase productivity and business performance. These violations are punishable by law and can result in high fines or even jail time for the employer or an appointed supervisor. In order to make their work environment safer, employees’ should know their rights and warn their managers and OSHA of any Occupational Safety and Health Act violations.
Occupational Health and Safety Act is a federal law, which governs the occupational safety of both private companies and government-funded institutions. Section 5 is the most important part of this act. It contains ‘general duty clause’, which requires employers to:
Maintain conditions and adopt practices that are necessary for protecting workers on the job;
Be familiar with standards that are applicable to specific types of establishments;
Ensure that employees have and use necessary protective equipment.
This act is enforced by Occupational Health and Safety Administration, which is obliged to act under the ‘general duty clause’ if all of the following criteria have been met:
There is a work-related hazard;
The hazard is recognized (within the industry);
The hazard is likely to cause serious harm or death;
The hazard is correctable;
Since many hazards don’t meet all four criteria, OSHA focuses on extensive rule-making in order to define different types of mechanical and chemical hazards and ways to prevent them.
Not all work-related hazards should be filed to OSHA. Filing an OSHA complaint is just one of the tactics that can be more or less successful, depending on whether the hazard satisfies the above-mentioned criteria. Before filing a complaint to OSHA, you should:
Reassess the situation one more time;
Consult with your co-workers;
Bring hazardous conditions to your employer’s attention;
Call your union, tell them about the hazard and ask them for advice;
Ask your union to negotiate with your employer;
Meet and speak with OSHA employees before making an inspection request;
In the end, if none of these actions have produced any tangible result and you and your co-workers are still facing an imminent danger while doing your job, you should file an OSHA complaint and ask for an immediate inspection.
If a work-related incident happens, you should obtain first aid and necessary medical treatment as soon as possible. You should also notify your supervisor about an injury and the way in which it occurred. Always do this in writing and keep an additional copy for yourself. If you fail to inform your employer about your workplace injury within 30 days from the moment it happened, you may lose the right to workers’ compensation benefits.
After you’ve done these steps, you complete the claim for workers’ compensation benefit on the Form C-3. You can do this in the nearest Workers’ Compensation Board. In order to get your benefits, you may be required to attend an independent medical examination or even a special hearing in your company or in a local WC board.
Since work-related injuries are sometimes followed by long and tiresome lawsuits, you should have an appropriate representation. You can hire a work injury lawyer, who will guide you through the whole legal process and solve both legal and practical problems in order for you to get an appropriate workers’ compensation for your injury.
In the time when union power in the United States is declining, workers need to know their rights in order to protect themselves and their co-workers. In many instances, employers avoid paying workers’ compensation coverage or avoid reporting injuries and occupational diseases to WC board. For this reason, you should always ask for expert help when dealing with complicated Occupational Health and Safety procedures because that is the only way you can protect your own interest and get the compensation you deserve.