The dawn of the industrial revolution in the 19th century saw many more Americans leaving their homes to work in factories and workshops. Unfortunately, with this new productivity and societal mobility came increased risks involved with heavy machinery. It was not uncommon for workers to be injured or even killed on the job.
Even though far fewer modern workers are employed in these dangerous professions, workplace injuries are still common. As a result, Congress passed a law known as the Occupational Safety and Health Act in 1970. This Act was intended to create a minimum standard of safety in all workplaces around the country.
This Act requires employers of all sizes are required to maintain workplaces that are reasonably free from hazards. Any failure to do so can result in a federal investigation, and employees who report a hazard are protected from any retaliation. If you have questions about how the OSH act applies to your situation, speak with a dedicated workers’ compensation attorney.
Employers’ Duties Under OSH
The OSH applies to all employers in South Carolina and around the country. 29 U.S.C. §654 states that, “each employer shall furnish to each of his employees a place of employment that is free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious harm.”
In addition, all employees must behave in a way that complies with regulatory and safety rules provided in this law. As a result, both workers and employers have responsibilities under the OSH Act.
Still, some workplaces are innately dangerous. It is impossible for an employer at a mine, dockyard, or steel mill to eliminate all potential hazards. In cases like these, the law instead requires employers to provide safety equipment and training designed to mitigate the chances of an accident.
Furthermore, 29 U.S.C. §657 requires employers to keep a record of all safety precautions and training sessions mandated by the OSH Act. The Secretary of Labor or Health and Human Services has the authority to inspect these records upon request by any employee. Any employer deemed to have willfully violated this law faces a maximum civil penalty of $70,000 per violation and a minimum penalty of $5,000 per violation.
How Can Employees Ensure Their Workplace is Safe?
All workers have the right to earn a living free from unnecessary risk. This comes with a responsibility to participate in all training sessions and use safety equipment properly. However, even with these precautions, some workplaces are unsafe because of employer negligence or willful noncompliance.
Any worker around the country has the right to file a complaint with OSHA if they believe that their job has become unsafe. Workers have the option of filing a complaint online, through the mail, or by phone, after which OSHA would look into the claim and potentially opt to conduct a full investigation.
Further, employers are prohibited from retaliating against any worker who files an OSHA claim. 29 U.S.C. §660 (c) forbids employers from firing or in any way discriminating against a worker who:
- Files a complaint about an unsafe work practice
- Initiates or helps initiate an OSH Act investigation
- Testifies in the present or will testify in the future as part of an OSH Act investigation
- Exercises any other rights established by the OSH Act
People who believe that they have faced any adverse reaction at work because of an OSH Act complaint can file a petition with the Department of Labor.
The OSH Act Seeks to Provide Employees With a Safe Place to Work
The Occupational Safety and Health Act is intended to give all workers the peace of mind to do their jobs free from the worry of injury or death. This law requires all employees to provide safety equipment and training to keep their workers free from harm. Any worker who believes that their job is unsafe should contact OSHA to file a complaint.
Not only might this procedure trigger a federal investigation, but employees are shielded from retaliation by law. If you have any further questions about your rights as workers to do your job in a safe environment, you should contact a Charleston lawyer to further discuss your rights under the OSH Act.