Written by AskTheLawyers.com™
Ask a Workers’ Compensation Attorney for Legal Advice
Safety is an important part of any workplace. Employers are legally obligated to provide a reasonably safe work environment for their employees, the standards of which are decided by a variety of authoritative bodies, including industry regulation experts and OSHA (the Occupational Safety and Health Act). A failure to follow these industry standards can result in the necessity for legal action to correct the violation. OSHA requires employees to be informed of any inherent hazards on the job, as well as for employers to proactively remain aware of new hazards and take the necessary measures to correct those hazards if possible.
When workplace safety is overlooked, serious accidents can occur, resulting in severe injuries, life-long disabilities, and even death. If a third-party was responsible for a worker’s injury while on the job, that third party could be liable for a worker’s injuries and subsequent damages. Workplace safety laws vary from state to state, so if you suspect a violation of workplace safety standards, it’s a good idea to look up your state’s guidelines and also request help from a labor attorney.
Workers’ Compensation Exists to Protect Both Employers and Workers.
Most businesses are required to offer some level of workers’ compensation, commonly referred to as “workers’ comp” to their employees after a work-related injury or illness. This workers’ compensation is twofold; it ensures that an injured employee will receive financial aid for their medical bills and lost wages, and it also protects the employer from legal repercussions. Except for rare situations, a worker cannot file a personal injury claim against their employer if they are already receiving workers’ comp benefits. However, in situations where workplace safety was overlooked and negligence can be proven on the part of an employer or third party, the injured party could be eligible to file a lawsuit to recover additional damages.
Common Workplace Safety Violations
Unfortunately, workplace safety violations are not uncommon, but are often overlooked. Examples of common safety violations include but are not limited to:
- Inadequate fall protection
- Inadequate scaffolding
- Inadequate or absent respiratory protection
- Poor hazard communication
- Poorly maintained hazardous material
- Poorly maintained machinery
- Inadequate ladder safety
- Inadequate supervision
What Should You Do If You Witness Workplace Safety Violations?
It’s important to be prepared with the knowledge of what to do if you witness a workplace safety violation. Even a small safety violation can result in big problems if a worker is injured as a result. If you witness a workplace safety violation, it’s a good idea to take a picture or video recording of the violation if possible, and report the complaint to OSHA to open an onsite inspection. Next, it’s a good idea to tell a supervisor about the violation and make sure management is aware. In some cases, an employer might be able to quickly address the hazard without further complication.
Additionally, if you feel that your employer is retaliating against you for reporting a safety violation, you can file a whistleblower complaint with OSHA to protect against illegal employer retaliation. OSHA inspections resulting in the identification of safety violations can result in fines and other corrective action being taken against the employer. If this is insufficient to correct the problem or if an injury occurs as a result of the safety violation, contact a workers' compensation attorney to discuss your options for protecting yourself and your family from further financial harm and seeking compensation to pay for past and present damages.