Understanding Your Workplace Rights Regarding Health & Safety

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guarantees workers certain rights. It's important to review and become familiar with the OSHA Workers' Rights afforded to all workers in the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. Through enforcing this act, OSHA assists states in providing safe working conditions as well as providing research, information, education, and training for occupational safety and health. Some of the most important rights guaranteed by law include:

  • The ability to file a confidential complaint and request a workplace inspection
  • The right to obtain information and training about workplace hazards and prevention methods
  • The right to review any records of workplace related injuries
  • The right to receive a copy of any test results and monitoring measuring hazards in the workplace
  • The right to obtain copies of workplace medical records
  • The right to participate in an OSHA inspection and speak to the inspector in private to address any concerns
  • The right to file a complaint if you are retaliated against by your employer for requesting an inspection
  • The right to file a complaint if you are retaliated against for being a whistleblower

Employer Responsibilities
OSHA has requirements for employers, including prevention training programs and the responsibility to provide workers with the proper personal protective equipment. Employers must also provide periodic health screening and monitoring for employees who work in hazardous areas including maintaining detailed records of employee’s health and covering the costs of tests to monitors. Here are some additional OSHA-mandated rules that employers must abide by:

  • Prominently displaying an OSHA poster that lists rights and responsibilities
  • Informing employees of any hazards and providing adequate training (in a vocabulary/language that employees understand)
  • Keeping accurate records of any work-related injuries or illnesses
  • Providing any health/hearing tests according to OSHA standards
  • Posting an OSHA citation and injury/illness data in an area where employees can easily view them
  • Notifying OSHA within eight hours of any workplace fatality and within 24 hours of a work-related hospitalization
  • Not retaliating against an employee for reporting a work-related illness or injury

Unsafe Working Conditions
One key statute of the Occupational Safety and Health Act is a worker's right to refuse to work in unsafe conditions. A workplace may be deemed unsafe for numerous reasons. One such reason may be that fire prevention systems and emergency response plans have not been put in place, or that an organization lacks measures for preventing overexertion. Perhaps not enough personal protective equipment is provided or the protective equipment provided — including hard hats, goggles, ear protectors, aprons, gloves, and boots — is not in good working condition.

While there are legal requirements surrounding health and safety for all businesses, workers should be aware of their own rights within the workplace. If employees are fully aware of proper workplace conditions and their right to work without fear of injury or illness, as well as their right to hold their employer accountable, they are better equipped to protect themselves and their colleagues.

Janet Hunt (contact her at https://twitter.com/@Janet_Hunt) has been working in the insurance industry for more than 15 years. She has written insurance articles for several prominent online sources. She received her Property and Casualty license in 1995 after attending Insurance Specialty Training Institute of Louisiana. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from the University of Phoenix and keeps on top of the latest insurance industry news, trends and regulations through regular continuing education classes in insurance.

Posted on Jun 27, 2017

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