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Workplace Safety: What Are My Rights?

By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. on August 11, 2011 6:49 AM

Have you ever sustained an office injury, or noticed some sort of hazard at your workplace? As an employee, do you know that OSHA regulations often mandate that employers maintain workplace premises up to a certain standard?

OSHA, short for the Occupational Safety and Health Act, was passed in order to ensure that every American has safe working conditions at their place of employment. All businesses that "affect commerce" are regulated under OSHA, so practically every business falls under OSHA regulation.

As an employee, it's critical to recognize what kind of rights you might have under OSHA, and what workplace safety might mean for you.

OSHA regulations mandate that employers maintain a workplace that is free from "recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm" to employees.

Hazards and safety conditions that are covered by OSHA include hazards in the working area like stairs, ladders, or floors, the number of entryways and exits, exposure to harmful substances, fire protection systems, safety devices for any machinery, and whether or not there is first-aid service.

If you spot a dangerous condition, you always the option under OSHA to contact the OSHA area or state office and have someone come inspect the premises.

The employee who decides to contact the local OSHA office requesting the inspection will be free from any sort of retaliatory action from the employer. And, the reporting employee also has the option to have their names withheld from the employer.

What happens if the OSHA inspection finds a violation? The employer is required to fix the hazard, or could face a fine. In a severe case where they willfully violated an OSHA standard that resulted in death, an employer could face criminal liability.

Laws like OSHA regulations are primarily designed to help prevent office injury or workplace injury before they incur by helping to enforce health and safety standards. 

What happens if the OSHA inspection finds a violation?

The employer is required to fix the hazard, or could face a fine. In a severe case where they willfully violated an OSHA standard that resulted in death, an employer could face criminal liability. Consulting an employment attorney could also be helpful in determining any rights you might have.

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