OSHA and Workplace Safety: Know Your Rights

Workplace safety affects millions of people in the United States but it might not be very well understood. Often the only time employees consider their workplace safety is after a workplace injury. However, by understanding workplace safety, including the Osh Act and workers’ compensation insurance, you can protect yourself and even prevent injury.

If you are employed in the U.S., you have specific legal rights and protections. The first thing you need to remember is that you have the right to a safe workplace. The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSH Act) was passed to prevent workers from being killed or seriously harmed at work. The law requires employers to provide their employees with working conditions that are free of known dangers.

The Act created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which sets and enforces protective workplace safety and health standards. Workers may file a complaint to have OSHA inspect their workplace if they believe that their employer is not following OSHA standards or if they believe there are serious hazards present.

Workers’ rights under the OSH Act

To help assure a safe and healthful workplace, OSHA provides workers with the right to:

  • Ask OSHA to inspect their workplace.
  • Use their rights under the law without retaliation and discrimination.
  • Receive information and training about hazards, methods to prevent harm, and the OSHA standards that apply to their workplace. The training must be in a language you can understand.
  • Get copies of test results done to find hazards in the workplace.
  • Review records of work-related injuries and illnesses.
  • Get copies of their medical records.

Employer Responsibilities

Under the OSH Act, Employers MUST provide their employees with a workplace that does not have serious hazards and follow all relevant OSHA safety and health standards.

Employers MUST:

  • Find and correct safety and health problems.
  • Try to eliminate or reduce hazards first by making changes to working conditions rather than just relying on various types of personal protective equipment (masks, gloves, etc.).
  • Inform employees about hazards through training, labels, alarms, color-coded systems,chemical information sheets and other methods.
  • Keep accurate records of work-related injuries and illnesses.
  • Perform tests in the workplace, such as air sampling required by some OSHA standards.
  • Provide hearing exams or other medical tests required by OSHA standards.
  • Post OSHA citations, injury and illness data, and the OSHA poster in the workplace where workers will see them.
  • Notify OSHA within 8 hours of a workplace incident in which there is a death or when three or more workers go to a hospital.
  • Not discriminate or retaliate against a worker for using their rights under the law.

The OSH Act is only one aspect of workplace safety and legal protections. Check back next week for information about workers’ compensation insurance.

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