Workplace Safety Law
Guide to workplace safety law and working environment regulations
What is Workplace Safety Law?
Workplace safety law consists of federal and state regulations imposed on businesses in an effort to keep employees safe from harm. These rules apply to nearly all private sector employers. Standards are in place to reduce the risk of accidents and illnesses in the workplace, and government agents have authority to investigate violations and issue citations for noncompliance. Offenders are subject to monetary fines, and in some cases, imprisonment and other criminal penalties.
While “whistle blowing” employees can sometimes require legal assistance in reporting violations, workplace safety attorneys are primarily engaged in representing businesses. Attorneys who specialize in this area of the law defend employers in administrative proceedings, and offer consulting services to help companies develop policies to ensure compliance. Business clients also hire attorneys to assist lawmakers with drafting regulations, making sure the new laws are sensitive to the realities and needs of the client’s industry.
Occupational Health and Safety Regulations
The first step for employers who are concerned about compliance issues is to gain a general understanding of what the law requires. In 1970, Congress passed the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act). This legislation can be viewed in terms of the rights it creates for workers, and the obligations it places on their employers.
With respect to workers’ rights, the OSH Act generally provides that each employee must be told about hazards existing at the workplace, and receive training in how to avoid those hazards. Employees also have a right to information about the health and safety laws applicable to the business. They must have means to file a complaint with the government if it appears the laws are being broken, on a confidential basis, and without fear of retaliation.
Employers have duties under the OSH Act to seek out potential threats to the wellbeing of their employees. In other words, business owners must be proactive, and take it upon themselves to discover hazards before they cause harm. Once discovered, hazards must be removed or otherwise addressed in order to minimize the risk to employees. Hazards that cannot be rendered safe must be brought to the attention of the employees, and appropriate training and safety gear provided. Finally, employers are required to maintain accident records and make them available for viewing.
Federal regulations implemented under the OSH Act are administered by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Well-known among members of the construction and mining industries in particular, OSHA sends officials to physically inspect workplaces and issue citations for violations. It also provides educational outreach programs for businesses.
Avoiding Workplace Safety Claims
Perhaps more so than in any other field of law, workplace safety attorneys spend a great deal of time consulting with their business clients to avoid legal problems before they arise. The audit process may reveal the need for additional equipment such as respirators or safety guards on machinery. Or, it may indicate that new practices should be utilized, such as storing dangerous materials offsite to minimize the risk of exposure.
With the help of experienced legal counsel, a compliance audit may also show the need for enhanced training programs that take into account workers’ language and learning abilities. Record keeping procedures will be reviewed, and even seemingly minor problems like missing OSHA posters can be caught and rectified before they come to the attention of agency officials.
Claim Investigation and Defense
If a claim is made, the need for legal assistance becomes more urgent. An internal investigation by the company and its attorney will help determine if the employee’s claim is valid, and what steps are necessary to deal with the problem. In situations where an OSHA citation has been issued, there is a possibility the citation can be resolved through an informal negotiation process with the agency. If not, a strong defense will still benefit the company by keeping fines, sanctions, and publicity to a minimum.
Of course, just because the services of an attorney are useful in representing the employer’s interests in a workplace safety dispute, this is not to suggest that goals of the employer, its workers, and the government are at odds with each other. Workplace safety has come a long way in the decades since the OSH Act was passed into law. The most important benefit of working with an attorney familiar with safety regulations is that it will help the client provide a workplace in which employees can perform their duties without the risk of bodily harm.
Hiring a Workplace Safety Attorney
Whether you are simply interested in reducing the chance of a future violation, or you face significant liability for a recent catastrophe at your facility, as a business owner you need the assistance of a legal professional. Contact an attorney today to find out what you can do to demonstrate your commitment to worker safety.
Articles on HG.org Related to Workplace Safety Law
- Workplace Risks in the Construction IndustryWhile every workplace poses a certain degree of risk, some industries are more inherently dangerous than others. Such is the case with the construction industry.
- U.S. Department of Labor Issues Fine to AmazonThe U.S. Department of Labor recently issued a $7,000 fine to mega online retailer, Amazon Inc. for failure to report 26 workplace injuries that occurred in their New Jersey warehouse in 2015.
- Avoid These Mistakes When Reporting a Work-Related InjuryIf you were hurt in a workplace accident or have recently been diagnosed with an occupational illness or injury, the actions you take during the first few days will set the tone for the rest of your claim.
- Mistakes to Avoid After a Workplace AccidentIf you are injured in an accident at work, the moments and days following it can be overwhelming. You might not know what to do after you are injured, which can cause you to make mistakes that jeopardize your ability to receive Workers’ Compensation. However, the first step can be simpler than you might think. By seeking legal counsel as soon as possible, you can receive the help of a skilled Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation lawyer that has seen it all before.
- The First 5 Things You Should Do if You Are in an Accident that Was Not Your FaultFollowing an accident, you will surely have questions about how to recover compensation. When you do not believe that you were at fault, the exact steps to take are very important. Here are five things you should do when you are in an accident that was not your fault.
- New Bill Aims to Protect Nurses from InjuryNurses and medical institutions will both benefit from the new laws being passed, which will help ensure safety regulations and accountability within the workplace.
- Further Illinois Workers' Compensation “Reform” Is Unnecessary and Would Harm Injured WorkersThe insurance industry wants cuts in benefits to injured workers, and Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner intends to make them. They say that the cost of the workers' compensation program is too high, making the state uncompetitive in attracting business.
- Keeping the Workplace SafeThe aim of any employer is to have a hazard free work environment for the safety of employees. A hazardous workplace represents a greater likelihood that an accident involving employees may result.
- What Can I Expect to Happen in a Typical Injury Case in the State of Pennsylvania?The laws regarding tort actions vary on a state-by-state basis. Further, what one can expect to experience in an injury case – to a certain extent – will depend upon the type of injury claim that is being filed (i.e. while the basic process for filing different injury claims may be similar, they will not mirror each other identically). The following provides a general overview of what you can expect to happen in a typical injury case in the state of Pennsylvania:
- How to Know When You Should Hire an Attorney for an Injury?Not all accident claims require the guidance of an attorney. However, sometimes, claims are complex enough, or injuries are severe enough, that hiring an attorney is the smartest thing a victim can do to protect their future and improve their chances of a fair resolution. So when is it time to hire an attorney for a personal injury claim? The answer depends on the specific circumstances of your case, but if any of the factors listed below apply, it may be time to call a lawyer.
- All Employment and Labor Law Articles
Workplace Safety - US
- ABA - Occupational Safety and Health Law
This committee follows developments under the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act and the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act, as well as various state plans through which occupational safety and health laws and regulations are enforced.
- Occupational Safety And Health - Overview
The Congress finds that personal injuries and illnesses arising out of work situations impose a substantial burden upon, and are a hindrance to, interstate commerce in terms of lost production, wage loss, medical expenses, and disability compensation payments.
- Occupational Safety and Health - Wikipedia
- Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act)
Each employer: (1) shall furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees; (2) shall comply with occupational safety and health standards promulgated under this Act.
- Safety in the Workplace
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act), companies are required to provide a safe workplace for their employees.
- Workplace Safety Law
Workplace safety and health laws establish regulations designed to eliminate personal injuries and illnesses from occurring in the workplace.