OSHA State Plans
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) 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. Officials at OSHA also help draft new labor-related regulations and 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. Collectively, they also establish remedies for workplace accidents.
What OSHA Covers
OSHA covers a wide variety of issues, including injury, illness, death, and unsafe working conditions. However, the following are the most common areas that OSHA regulates:
- Biological agents: OSHA regulations cover exposure in workplace settings to biological and chemical agents, 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: As with the construction industry, OSHA issues and enforces regulations to safeguard workers in the maritime industry, due to the inherent concerns regarding the safety of maritime workers.
- Ergonomics: Although OSHA originated out of concern for injury in industries like construction, it also regulates ergonomic standards for office jobs.
- Emergency preparedness: In cooperation with various state agencies, OSHA sets and implements national safety and health standards for emergency responders.
These are the most common topics that OSHA covers. However, less common topics include air quality and tobacco usage, as well.
What Rights Does OSHA Give You?
OSHA grants workers a host of rights designed to protect workers from injury, illness, and death. The following are examples 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 an inspection of your workplace for any OSHA state plan violations.
- You are entitled to see the results of any such investigation or inspection.
What To Do If You Are Injured
If you are injured on the job, here are some of the steps you should take 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 your related state agency. OSHA maintains a list of approved OSHA state plans.
- If you are retaliated against or fired, contact OSHA and consider contacting 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.
Questions About OSHA State Plans? Ask a Local Attorney
Understanding your rights to a safe workplace is an important step toward protecting yourself, but OSHA state plans often differ from federal OSHA protections. Speak with a local employment lawyer who can help you make sense of these protections and help you protect your rights.
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